Saturday, April 27, 2013
Patriots' Rutgers connection runs deep
By Mike Rodak
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Forget the gray hoodie. We might just see Bill Belichick pacing the sideline this season in Rutgers gear.
After drafting two Rutgers defensive backs in the third round -- cornerback Logan Ryan with the 83rd pick and Ryan's close friend and workout partner, safety Duron Harmon, with the 91st selection -- it's worth examining Belichick's extensive connection to the Scarlet Knights.
Belichick maintains strong ties with Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, who served as head coach at Rutgers from 2001-2011. Schiano is known as a hard-nosed, demanding coach, a style that likely translates well to the culture of the Patriots locker room.
"I think the reason why Rutgers guys have success at the Patriots is because we're built to play football on the field, but live like a professional off the field," Ryan said after being selected Friday night. "That's something that we're taught, and that's something that I'm going to bring to the Patriots organization."
Moreover, Belichick's son Steve played lacrosse at Rutgers before joining Schiano's squad as a long snapper in 2011, giving the elder Belichick an opportunity to visit central New Jersey.
"The reason that we saw (Bill) occasionally was because of Steve," Ryan explained Friday night. "But it wasn't like (Bill) was there all the time. I think he was there supporting his son like any father would. And he wasn't there as a coach for him, he was there as a father. So it was a very relaxed time when you saw Coach Belichick."
Steve Belichick is now a coaching assistant for the Patriots, but Ryan doesn't believe there will be any problems posed by being coached by a former teammate.
"Not at all," Ryan said. "He went his path in life and I went mine. He's going to be a great coach and I feel like I'm going to be a great player. And it's nothing more than that. This is a business now and I understand that."
In addition to the younger Belichick, the Patriots had other resources in defensive back Devin McCourty and defensive end Justin Francis, who both played with Ryan and Harmon at Rutgers. Other former Scarlet Knights -- including receiver Tiquan Underwood, defensive end Alex Silvestro and defensive back Nate Jones -- have also called New England home.
"We've had a number of our players here comment on (Ryan's and Harmon's) personal characteristics," Bill Belichick said. "I think we're getting some high-quality guys as well as some good football players."
Both Ryan and Harmon were Big East All-Academic selections, while Harmon was a finalist for national sportsmanship awards.
"Defensive backs have to be some of the smartest people on the field, because they have to understand what their job is and how the game is at an extremely fast pace," Ryan said. "The smarter you are to digest that, it makes the game a little bit easier."
On the field, Harmon and Ryan paired in a secondary that Belichick called "a very good defensive unit" last season under new head coach Kyle Flood.
"That whole group, especially those (two) guys are close. They communicated well, played well," Belichick said. "Both are very productive both defensively and in the kicking game."