Wish comes true
for Meriweather, and maybe Belichick too
By John Ingoldsby
Wishes can come true, and one was granted today when Brandon Meriweather stood on sacred ground holding his new Patriots Number 1 jersey.
Flanked by Robert and Jonathan Kraft at midfield of Gillette Stadium, Meriweather's head swiveled around like he was searching for a shooting star to guarantee his wish was not a dream. In reality, he was just soaking up the sights and stands of the Route 1 edifice during the official Number 1 jersey ceremony to kick off this weekend's rookie mini camp.
Before stepping on stage outside, the Patriots Number 1 pick had told the media throng inside that ending up here was "always a wish." Consider it granted, thanks to Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, and the Krafts.
"The team really wanted to get to know me, and the feeling was mutual, but the Patriots put a little more interest into me than other NFL teams," the soft-spoken but hard-hitting defensive back said. "I mean, they sent Coach Belichick!"
What college football player would not have the Patriots at the top of their wish list when getting a visit from one of the 100 most influential Americans in 2004, as we were reminded this week when Belichick attended this year's Time 100 gala. No hoodie for the coach at this Manhattan affair as he was looking dapper in a tuxedo complete with a Top 100 Monogram.
And when it comes to wishes, it may be Belichick who got his granted by finding the Miami defensive back still available at Pick 24 in the NFL Draft. As written in this space a few weeks back, the Patriots clearly were wishing for secondary help with their first pick, and they got it with Meriweather.
|New England Patriots first-round draft choice Brandon Meriweather with Patriots owner Bob Kraft, right, and his son Jonathan Kraft (AP Photo/Stephan S)|
What more could Belichick wish for than a two-time Miami "Hard Hitter Award" winner, who showed his versatility (a word at the top of Belichick's wish list) by playing every safety and cornerback position at the "U." He also set the school career record for defensive backs with 293 total tackles and 182 solo smack downs, quite an accomplishment as a "U" descendant of Bennie Blades, Ed Reed, and Sean Taylor.
"I see myself as a defensive back, and not labeled as a safety or corner," stated the 5'11" 195-pounder who led his Apopka team to the Florida high school championship as team captain. "I played some option quarterback in high school and threw like three passes, but as far as me being Tom Brady, that isn't possible."
He won't need to be. Shoring up the secondary like his past and future mentors will do just fine, thank you. "I learned from Sean Taylor at Miami, and now I get to learn from another potential Hall of Famer in Rodney Harrison," Meriweather said smiling.
It won't be just Number 37 helping him out in Foxboro, it will be his former "U" teammate Vince Wilfork. "Playing with Vince again is one of the first things I thought of after the Patriots picked me, and another reason why I was ecstatic. An hour after I was chosen, Vince called me and said, "Welcome back," mused Meriweather.
While acknowledging that Wilfork told him what a great town this is to play in, Meriweather already knew he had gotten what he wished for.
"I can't explain in words what it means to come to a Super Bowl-contending team," he said. "The Patriots are a dynasty, and a great team every year. I am trying to learn everything I can and fit in well."
Regarding his fit with the team and its vaunted character, the playmaking ball hawk acknowledged his newly spotlighted past transgressions by saying, "I am not a bad person. I am a great person, who has morals, and loves to be around teammates. I am just focusing on being a Patriot."
He began that career smartly today, wearing Patriot colors in his shirt and tie to set off his polished suit and flowing dreadlocks. The elegant look even got noted fashion plate Bob Kraft to quip, "This guy knows how to dress."
The rest of the weekend, though, he may be doing some "undressing" of his fellow rookies with Miami-style hard hits while wearing a different type of suit, the kind with pads inside. Patriot fans can only wish
John Ingoldsby is a free-lance sports writer based in Medfield, Massachusetts, who has written articles about the Patriots for various publications during the past five years. You can find John on the Patriots Insider boards under the handle Rudiee.
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