Tens of thousands of high school football programs feed into 130 Division I college programs, which feed into 32 NFL pro teams. With the NFL draft coming up this Thursday, remember: It’s mainly hype by the TV talking heads.
I respect the New England Patriots. They’re a bunch of no-names, low draft picks and free agents and all they do is win Super Bowls. Look at the 2018 New England Patriots roster. On offense their starting center was Dave Andrews, an undrafted free agent.
Their starting guards were Joe Thuney, a third-round pick and Shaq Mason, a fourth-round pick. Starting tackles were Marcus Cannon, a fifth-round pick and Trent Brown, a seventh-round pick whom they got in a trade from the San Francisco 49ers. Trent Brown went from being a seventh-round pick, to winning a Super Bowl ring, to now being the highest-paid NFL lineman as he just signed a four-year, $66 million contract with the Oakland Raiders.
Starting tight end was Rob Gronkowski (“Gronk”), a second-round pick and future NFL Hall-of-Famer. Starting wide receivers were Chris Hogan, an undrafted free agent who played lacrosse (not football) at Penn State. He played football for his fifth year of college eligibility at Monmouth University (New Jersey). Cut by the San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants and Miami Dolphins, he gained fame on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” with the Miami Dolphins when Reggie Bush was miked and said of Hogan, “He’s like 7-11. He’s always open.”
The other starting receiver was Julian Edelman, a seventh-round draft pick from Kent State. He was small coming out of high school and no colleges wanted him, so he played his first year at College of San Mateo (JC). He then transferred to Kent State where he was a three-year starter at quarterback. The New England Patriots selected him in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL draft. To go from a short guy to Super Bowl MVP with the second-most catches and receiving yards in post-season history behind only Jerry Rice is unheard of. (Google “Julian Edelman SI body” as Julian was one of the many athletes who posed naked for Sports Illustrated’s “Body Issue.”)
The running backs are more of the same. Fullback James Develin was an undrafted free agent. Rex Burkhead was a sixth-round pick and James White was a fourth-round draft pick. Sony Michel was the only starting New England Patriot offensive player drafted in the first round.
And there’s Tom Brady, the GOAT — the “Greatest Of All Time.” To understand what drives Tom Brady, you have to go back to the 2000 NFL draft, where he was the 199th player selected that year in the sixth round. Brady’s family grew up in San Mateo, just a few miles south of Candlestick Park, where they had season tickets to the 49ers. Steve Young had just retired and the 49ers needed a quarterback.
Chad Pennington went in the first round to the New York Jets. In the third round the 49ers selected Giovanni Carmazzi from Hofstra University, who never played a single down in a regular season NFL game. Today Carmazzi is a yoga-exercising goat farmer who lives two hours north of San Francisco, off the grid with no TV or computer. The other quarterbacks drafted ahead of Brady in 2000 were Chris Redman by the Baltimore Ravens, Tee Martin by the Pittsburg Steelers, Marc Bulger of the New Orleans Saints and Spergon Wynn by the Cleveland Browns. All are out of football and most never had much of the NFL career.
Brady has played in nine Super Bowls, winning six; both records. He is the winningest quarterback in NFL history. Brady has led the New England Patriots to an unheard of 13 AFC Championship games, winning nine and has a current streak of eight consecutive AFC Championship games (2011-2018). Since Brady became the New England Patriot’s starting quarterback in 2001 after an injury to Drew Bledsoe, they’ve never had a losing season and have won 16 division titles. Between the 2003-2004 seasons, Brady led the Patriots to 21 consecutive wins (including the post-season), also an NFL record.
So don’t fall for all the glitz and hype about the NFL draft. It’s pretty much a crapshoot on which players might have solid NFL careers and who’s gonna crash and burn quickly. The Patriot way: Do your job! Teams win championships, not individual players.
Matthew Owen resides in Eureka.