Jerod Mayo made Patriots news this past week when he reportedly restructured his contract.
But it was exactly seven years ago today – April 26, 2008 –that the affable linebacker first made news in New England as Bill Belichick's No. 10 overall pick in that spring's NFL Draft.
The team traded down a bit to land the Tennessee prospect with an eye on value while still bringing in the highest prospect at the linebacker position Belichick had ever targeted in his time running the show in Foxborough.
Mayo was a 100-plus tackle, 16-game starter as a rookie. He was named a team captain in his second season. Then he earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors in his third NFL campaign for an impressive start to his career.
He is one of the better linebackers we have seen in a while.
Mayo clearly earned the respect of his teammates and coaches – including Belichick – very quickly upon arriving at Gillette Stadium.
But what did Belichick think on the night that he picked Mayo with the second-highest overall selection of his tenure in New England?
Frankly, Belichick seemed to see a football player he liked inside and out – both in terms of his on-field skills and his off-field makeup.
As always, thanks to the Patriots PR department for the following transcript of draft night 2008.
April 26, 2008
Belichick: Whipping things right along, we are excited to have Jerod join our organization. He is a pretty versatile player, did a lot of things down at Tennessee. Played inside, played outside played in sub defense, played in the kicking game, is a smart kid, runs well, pretty physical player and I think he will be a great addition to our football team. Where that fits, we will have to wait and see and how that goes with all the other players on our team. He has some versatility and has played at a high level and against some great players in the SEC. He has played against a lot of the best players in the country. I thought he did a real good job. We were on the clock at 7, the timing, we did a little bit of prep work with the New Orleans trade last night and a little bit before we were on the clock. Things did go a little bit quicker than they had in the past. I'm glad we got that done. I felt that that trade was one that would help our football team, I feel good about that. But I think that pick in the 3rd round will be helpful whether we end up using it to pick a player or trade up or whatever it is. We will see how that goes. You know add a good player on defense and added one last year hopefully we can continue to get a little bit younger on the defensive end of the ball going forward.
Q: There was a cornerback pick next. Why did you decide to trade down?
BB: We did what we felt was best for the football team and there's a lot of good players on the board. There were good players that went before us and after we picked Jerod. It's the pick we felt was best for the football team and I'm glad we have him.
Q: In regard to the prep work on the trade, did you feel that was going to happen today?
BB: Well no, we anticipated that scenario and New Orleans was certainly looking for Sedrick Ellis. I think that was pretty – that was no big secret and when he was still on the board that kind of lead to the next step of going through and executing that trade.
Q: Was there anyone taken before that would have caused you to decide different?
BB: We didn't go through the hypothetical; we just took the situation as it came up. You know we were on the clock and we had a trade partner so we felt like it was a good trade for our football team so we did it. I felt like it was a good decision for our team. If something else was to happen, you know, I don't know.
Q: Would you have made a different decision with a different team in regard to the trade if there were different players on the board?
BB: I don't know, but that's what was there. It's not like you have another option to trade with anyone of four or five teams. That was the trade and I think it worked out fine.
Q: Three third-round picks, you have flexibility?
BB: I wouldn't rule anything out. I'm not afraid to trade one way or another. We will just see how it goes and take every situation as it comes up. Whether that's moving up in the second or picking players or picks in the next year, we have done all those things so I don't know how it's going to go what options are going to come up. We will do what is best for our football team.
Q: When was Mayo on your radar?
BB: Well, really after all the team is declared. They are a very good combine workout but he was the guy, I think that everyone that scouted the SEC, that scouted our conference, knew about him. He was a very productive player down there for Tennessee and has been for a couple years now. He had a good workout he is a productive player in every game. He is a versatile guy; we brought him up, visited with him. He's very intelligent player, he's a good football player. He's smart, he understands schemes and concepts, he runs the defense, makes the calls, makes adjustments and all those things. I think that he has a lot to offer.
Q: Could you see him get better inside as the season went on?
BB: Well I think he was pretty good when he was outside. I think he played well with Mike and Sam so those are all 4-3 off-the-line positions and 3-4 defense we have only two off-the-line positions, but sometimes we can adjust the front and he plays in those different spots and so forth. Certainly he improved over the course of the year but think he was pretty good at the start of the year and think he was good last year and pretty good the year before that. He has been a productive player at a top program in a top conference at a couple different spots and that includes against the run and against the pass and on fourth down in the kicking game and I don't think there was much more he could have done.
Q: He has had two knee surgeries and he is fully recovered but that is obviously not a concern of yours?
BB: No, no of course not. Our doctors feel fine about him. I wish my good knees were as good as his bad ones. No, I think he is healthy and has been a very durable guy and a very productive player.
Q: Is your vision for him next year impact or developmental?
BB: Well, I will just have to see with everyone else and see how it goes.
Q: Was he rated higher over other linebackers?
BB: He is one of the better linebackers we have seen in a while. You know we haven't been picking at this point in the draft either. But I'm glad we were picking where we were and for the right reasons, but there have been other good players that have come through, guys the last couple years, but we were so far away from where they were getting picked there wasn't much for consideration.
Q: Over the years not a lot of linebackers have been drafted.
BB: It worked out that way. There were no grand plans to take him or not take him. We evaluate all the players, grade them and then when it's time to pick you take a look at the players available and pick what's best for the football team. It worked out that way this year, it could have worked out differently in other years but it didn't and that's the way it fell and whenever we pick we do what we feel is best for the team and sometimes those options, you don't control them.
Q: He is a player that gets better each year. Did that have an impact on your decision?
BB: I think everyone gets better with more experience and more play-time. He is pretty good and he has been pretty good. It's not like he was no good and then gradually got better. He has been a good player since he's been there. That is a top conference and it's against a lot of good players. The [Darren] McFaddens, the Georgias and the Floridas. They play a lot of good football teams and I don't think you have a problem finding him in any of those years in any of those games. He's there for all of them.