Each year around the draft, we hear a lot of talk from the Patriots coaching staff about finding the players that are the right fit. When discussing fit, coaches could be referring to a variety of characteristics from athleticism and knowledge to body type and skill. I'm sure many factors led to the Patriots selecting wide receiver Braxton Berrios in the 6th round of the 2018 NFL Draft, but if I were to guess his competitiveness and knowledge were not over looked in the evaluation process.
"I've always been a competitor. I hate to lose more than I like to win," the 2017 Miami school of business valedictorian said after day two of mandatory minicamp. "It's that driving force just across the board whether it is school, sports or any other activity."
After injuries hobbled the young slot receiver during the preseason last August, Berrios spent the 2018 season on injured reserved. Despite his time away from the field, it didn't take long for Berrios to catch the attention of reporters in 2019 by turning in the play of the day on Tuesday's opening day of minicamp as he dove and hauled in a deep sideline pass from Brian Hoyer during 7-on-7 drills.
Though Berrios endured his own personal struggle dealing with being sidelined from the game he loves for the first time in his career, it was far from a lost year for the 23-year-old.
"I've never had to watch football for the most part. It was obviously tough in that aspect. I reached out and figured out the healthy ways to deal with it and the ways to be productive with it so that when I could come back on the field I was a better football player even though I hadn't touched the field yet," Berrios said.
While Tuesday's catch at practice was impressive, as Belichick continuously reminds the media, minicamp is a teaching camp. It's hard to do much evaluation during these days, but considering the lack of experience in the wide receiver room, the flash Berrios showed is certainly a good sign for the 5-foot-9 slot receiver who recognizes building trust with his quarterback will be a process.
"I know this is year twenty for him," Berrios said of Brady. "There's a long way to go in order to make sure I'm on the same page as him. It's the same thing with Hoyer who's been in the NFL for so long. Coming in, I knew I had a long way to go, and I still do."
Spending time at the facility, studying the playbook and getting to know his teammates are some of the aspects of the game that Berrios said he gained during the 2018 season.
"It was really all the intangible things that you have to go through a full year to understand. The head spins a lot slower now that I've been around it for a year. That was a huge part of that year. Now that I get this opportunity again, it wasn't like I was on day one."
Like many youngsters who fantasize about playing at the highest level, making it to the NFL was a dream come true for the University of Miami product, but just as he shined on the field and in the classroom in college, Berrios is determined to be superior in everything he does.
"This is what I always wanted to do as a kid and I always remind myself that. This is my job. So I try to play for that little kid," Berrios said. "I don't take anything I've learned over the last year for granted. I still study like everything is brand new."
But when in college you boasted a near perfect GPA and were valedictorian, wouldn't you continue to study too?