by Kerry Taylor
Hey! Hey! I’m back with another look into what an aspiring NFL player goes through on his journey to live his sports dream. When I last left you, I just arrived back in New England to play for the hometown team. My season with the Patriots was filled with a ton of new experiences and adventures. Here is a quick look into some of them:
Practice After Practice
Yes, we talkin’ bout practice! I mentioned to you in the previous installment about bumping into my friend Marc on tour of the stadium. Marc and I play opposing positions. Up to this point, I never had to block him or run routes against him. One day after practice, we were walking off the field when Coach Carroll called us both back over. “Alright, let’s see you guys get after it!” So we threw our pads back on and banged heads for another 10-15 minutes. This happened at least 2 times every week. I didn’t mind it at all, the more reps the better. For both of us, every snap was a battle. Once we’re across from each other with helmets on, the friendship went out the window. With each collision, sweat and spit flew everywhere until the whistle blew. We took 20 seconds and crashed into each other again. All under the watchful eye of Coach Carroll and our position coaches, so you know neither one of us blue collar workers was going to give a little. I would have to say that the result of all the battles was a draw!
Getting threatened by Big Willie
In practice I often lined up across from two Pro Bowl players Willie (McGinest) and Chris (Slade). My task was to block them; who gets that lucky every day? On this day I had to reach block Willie to allow our running back to get around the corner and I wasn’t the type of player to a play off. I was young, hungry and trying to keep a job. You may be already jumping ahead to the idea of what happened. I approached the line and Willie wasn’t fully strapped up. Needless to say, I successfully achieved my block so the running back could get around the corner and run for 30 yards. As I walked back to the huddle to the crowd of players and coaches telling me “great job,” Willie’s voice bellowed over the crowd as he approached me with a little pep in his step, and got in my face. “Hey rookie, don’t you ever do that again!” I turned and got back into the huddle, ”Great job Kerry, that’s how you stick around in this league,” and then, I saw it coming, “run the same play, Kerry do the same thing.” We broke the huddle and I lined up across from Willie again. But this time, his helmet was fully strapped, hands balled up and clinched tightly ready to go with continuous expletives flying out of his mouth. “HIKE!” Suddenly everything went in slow motion as we banged heads. I felt all eyes on me. I am happy to say I successfully completed my block again to achieve the same result. Chalk one up for the little new guy.
Promoted to a starter
Welllllll, not really. During the season, I think it was week 9, Big Ben was a little banged up so I rotated in with the starters during the week for practice. My excitement was through the roof. When game time came, Ben was healthy and ready to go. So back to the bottom of the list I went. Take a seat rookie!
The day came when Coach Carroll was fired. Coach Belichick was hired. Exciting day for many, but a very disappointing day for me. "Why?," you may be asking yourself. Because Coach Carroll gave me a chance, he took a shot on me. I was excited to hopefully, eventually pay him back by my play on the field. Not only that, but spending the past year proving that the coach made the right decision and then, boom, he's gone. Out with the old staff, in with the new staff, is often the way with sports teams. Where did this leave your little known, undersized rookie tight end from Umass Amherst? Hmmmm...
I hope I didn’t bore you too much with a quick trip down memory lane in my first season with the Patriots. Man, there were some great times and some frustrating ones as well. But I wouldn’t trade it in for anything. I did mention a coaching change. You want to know some of the changes that were made? How the change in coaches affected me? What happened to your boy? Tune in to Part 8 and I will fill you in. Until next time, continue to live a life 1 degree above everyone else.