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His high school teammates called him Deion, as in Deion Sanders, because of his explosive ability to pick off his opponents' passes. His coaches called him Leon, a moniker referring to a commercial that featured a football player who was "too cool" to follow coaches' instructions. When it came to football, Patriots defensive back Kyle Arrington had the skills of Deion but the attitude of Leon. He didn't like to tackle.
So much has changed since then.
In early November 2009, Cleveland tried to sign Arrington to its 53-man roster. Arrington's agent pointed out that while he realized how much his client liked playing for New England, a roster spot versus a practice squad was a no-brainer.
"I was a little distraught about leaving New England because I'd wanted to be a Patriot and a part of this team so badly," Arrington says. "So even though I had a better opportunity elsewhere, I kind of didn't want to leave."
Still, he agreed with his agent's logic. That night, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio called Arrington. Caserio asked the cornerback if he'd signed anything yet. Arrington said no. Caserio said the Patriots wanted to keep him -- and sign him to their 53-man roster.
"Besides first entering the league in Philly as an undrafted free agent, that was probably the happiest day of my life," Arrington says. He stayed in New England, playing in eight games that season and totaling 18 tackles.