Skip to main content
Advertising

Official website of the New England Patriots

replay
Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Wed May 29 - 04:00 PM | Thu May 30 - 09:55 AM

Drake Maye's Football Origin Story From Local Phenom to Foxborough

Taking you back through time to tell the origin story of how the Patriots top draft pick became an elite NFL prospect. 

North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye was drafted by the New England Patriots in the first round (third overall) of the 2024 NFL Draft.
North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye was drafted by the New England Patriots in the first round (third overall) of the 2024 NFL Draft.

The first word that comes to mind for anyone who has been around the Mayes is family.

Drake Maye was born into a family that would make the Gronkowkis jealous. Drake's father, Mark, played quarterback for the University of North Carolina in the 1980s. As the youngest of four brothers, Drake had the least decorated college athletics career of the Maye bunch, with brothers Luke (basketball) and Cole (baseball) winning national championships. His closest brother in age, Beau, is currently on the UNC basketball team.

In his biggest moment, Maye shared the stage with his three brothers and longtime girlfriend while being introduced as the Patriots first-round pick on the Gillette Stadium field the Friday after the first round.

042624-MayeFoxboroVisit_Adler1819-watermarked

"This is my squad. If you're getting me, you're getting them," Maye told everyone in attendance.

As we tell Maye's football origin story, Patriots fans must understand the roots that Drake's parents, Mark and Aimee, laid for their sons. In the state of North Carolina, the Maye family are sports icons. Drake was a two-sport athlete at Myers Park High School. Football, of course, was king. But like brother Luke, Drake was also a standout on the basketball court.

During the 2017 NCAA Tournament regional finals, Luke's Tar Heels basketball team was tied with Malik Monk's Kentucky squad with 7.2 seconds remaining. The ball found Luke, and he drilled the game-winning bucket to send North Carolina to the Final Four. Eventually, they'd win the NCAA title, and now Luke is forever a Tar Heels legend.

"I remember Drake's sophomore year, we would have a home game, and we'd have to go on our announcements to ask our students not to bother Luke during the game," Maye's former high school coach Scott Chadwick told Patriots.com. "It was a big deal when Luke Maye would show up to the football games."

After spending time in the NBA's G League in the Bucks organization, Luke now plays basketball for the Ibaraki Robots in Japan. Despite the long trip, who was there by Drake's side when his name was called in Detroit at the 2024 NFL Draft and Friday's introductory press conference in Foxborough? Luke, obviously.

"I would watch the [North Carolina] basketball games on TV and you would see Drake there in the stands cheering as loud as anyone. Cheering for his brother. That's just so genuine the way all three of them have just tremendous support for each other. Each of the three of them are the other three's biggest fans," Chadwick explained.

"This family is the Mannings of North Carolina," former North Carolina offensive coordinator Phil Longo said.

North Carolina offensive analyst and quarterback guru Clyde Christensen added, "It's funny that the really great players I've been around come from great families, which may be random. Everyone from the Hasselbecks to the Bradys to the Mannings: they were just special families."

The Patriots are getting a player they hope is the organization's new franchise quarterback, but they're also potentially getting a new first family of Foxborough:

"Hey, Don't Hurt the Starter!"

Maye's football journey began at the same high school that his brothers attended in Cornelius, North Carolina, just outside of Charlotte and about two hours west of Chapel Hill.

As a freshman, Drake sat behind a junior starting quarterback. The coaching staff at Hough High School was committed to playing the upper-classman, and Hough and Myers Park played in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs while Drake was the backup quarterback.

In his preparation for the game, Chadwick recalled speaking to coaching confidants who had played Hough earlier that season and knew the team well as he scouted his opponent.

"I had other coaches tell me, hey, don't hurt [the starter]. You don't want to knock him out," Chadwick said. "You don't want that freshman coming in. The freshman is the better quarterback. You don't want him coming in. Don't knock [the starter] out."

As he waited his turn at Hough, Maye eventually began working out at Chadwick's academy called the Quarterback Factory. Chadwick ran the academy with current Vikings quarterbacks coach Josh McCown. Drake's father, Mark, enrolled his son in the academy, where his relationship with Chadwick grew as a 14-year-old student-athlete.

"We started working with Drake in January of that year. He became very comfortable with us and worked with us to the point where Mark and Drake moved to Charlotte so Drake could go to Myers Park," said Chadwick. "It was pretty obvious that when the fall started, this was going to be our starting quarterback."

With Chadwick and Maye now together at Myers Park, Drake's football career started to take off at warp speed.

"That's one of those I'll probably take to my grave."

Chadwick immediately made Drake his starting quarterback as a sophomore despite having a senior quarterback on the team. For everyone, it was clear that Maye was the better player.

"We did the right thing and made him earn it. We had a returning senior quarterback that we gave the first reps to sometimes. But, I'll never forget, we went to team camp. The senior walked up with the first group on the first day of camp. We just looked at him and were like, hey, he's [Drake] gonna take all the first-team reps now. The kid shook his head like yeah, I knew that was coming," Chadwick said.

As a sophomore, Maye quickly became one of the top quarterbacks in the state. Drake earned all-conference honors and the Rising Star Award with 3,201 passing yards and 36 touchdowns. Myers Park finished the season with a 13-2 record before losing in the state semifinals. Then, the following season was truly a historic one for Maye and the Mustangs.

While leading the team to a league title with a 12-1 record, Maye set a state record by completing 72% of his passes for 50 touchdowns to just two interceptions. His yards (3,512) and touchdowns set a new school record at Myers Park. However, the season ended in disappointment partially due to the format of the state playoffs in North Carolina.

"We averaged 50 points a game and were the number-one ranked team in the state the entire season. We were nationally ranked. We were blowing everybody out. Somehow, we hit the playoffs, we got to the quarterfinals, and we had to go on the road to play the number-two team in the state because North Carolina's playoff system is just ridiculous," Chadwick recalled.

Despite throwing for 286 yards and two touchdowns, Maye and the Mustangs lost in a shootout to Richmond by a final score of 35-32. It was a heartbreaking end to a record-breaking season.

"That's one of those ones I will probably take to my grave. We'd been ranked number one all season and really dominated everybody all year," Chadwick said.

Although his junior year ended in heartbreak, Maye was returning for what should've been another run at a state championship as a senior.

"And then that wonderful thing called COVID happened."

The Mustangs were heading into Maye's final season in high school with huge expectations after being ranked as the number-one team in the state the year before.

Plus, Maye was a four-star prospect with offers from Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and, of course, North Carolina, among others. With all the hype around the program, Chadwick scheduled two nationally televised games for Myers Park during the 2020 season. One of those games was against a high school out of Texas with its own notable quarterback.

"We have a game scheduled with ESPN. They're going to do a game at our place. They're going to bring in this team from Texas to Charlotte to play. They were the Texas private school state champions, and their quarterback was a guy named Shedeur Sanders," Chadwick said.

Sanders was attending Trinity Christian High School in Cedar Hill, Texas. Shedeur's Hall of Famer father, Deion, was the offensive coordinator at Trinity Christian. Sanders was also a four-star prospect, following his father to Jackson State before transferring to Colorado. Myers Park was scheduled to play the first high school football game at Bank of America Stadium, the home of the Carolina Panthers, to air on NFL Network as well.

Unfortunately, Maye never got to play in his senior year of high school football. The COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring, canceling the 2020 season and, thus, the showdown versus Shedeur.

"Other than IMG, we were probably going to be the only high school team in the country to have two nationally televised games, and then that wonderful thing called COVID happened. We never played another game," Chadwick said.

Although it was highly disappointing for everyone that the 2020 season was canceled, Chadwick had a different perspective on it in terms of Maye's potential in the NFL. Due to the pandemic, Maye only started two years at Myers Park and another two seasons at North Carolina. In other words, he has reached this level without playing much football as a 21-year-old rookie.

"That was one of the things I kept trying to make sure that teams understood. This guy's got a lot of years of football ahead of him. He's still learning and growing," Chadwick told me. "Some of these other guys that have played five or six years, how much closer to their ceiling are they? They might be getting close to their ceiling. Whereas I think Drake is a long way away from his ceiling."

"We are talking about a kid that didn't play. Didn't have a senior year of high school, and has only been a starter in college for two years. There's a tremendous amount of growth still left on the table for him." Chadwick pointed out.

With the pandemic wiping out his senior season, the North Carolina kid had to make a difficult decision about where to play college football.

Alabama vs. North Carolina: "I'm not calling Coach Saban."

As the prodigy of North Carolina, Maye wasn't overly interested in attending his parents or brother's alma mater in Chapel Hill due to the state of the football program.

During his initial recruitment, former Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora's team finished the 2018 season with a 2-9 record and just a 1-7 mark in ACC play. Fedora's tenure wasn't a complete failure, leading the Heels to their first ACC division title in 2015. However, the program was falling apart to the point where Drake wanted to play college football outside the state.

Following the 2018 season, North Carolina fired Fedora while bringing back Mack Brown for his second stint in Chapel Hill. Brown coached the Tar Heels from 1988 to 1997 before serving as the head coach at Texas until 2013. But until his arrival, Maye was verbally committed elsewhere.

"During his sophomore year, that was Fedora's last year in North Carolina, and they were terrible. He did not want any part of that. He wanted me to make it really clear to the colleges that he was not going to North Carolina. To please recruit him and don't assume things," Chadwick said. "Going into his junior year, he narrowed it down to Ohio State, Clemson, and Alabama."

Ohio State was the first of Maye's finalists to be nixed because the Buckeyes signed four-star QB C.J. Stroud as a top recruit in the 2020 class. Then, Clemson signed five-star quarterback DJ Uiagalelei to a national letter of intent—the focus was on Alabama.

"Well, at the time, all Alabama had, ironically enough, was Mac Jones. That really wasn't that big of a threat to Drake," Chadwick said in a moment of pure irony.

After waiting his turn to play for the Crimson Tide, Jones was a redshirt junior heading into the 2020 season. Mac would go on to win the national championship at Alabama in 2020, causing his NFL draft stock to skyrocket, so Jones declared for the draft. Ultimately, Maye wouldn't have competed with Jones in Tuscaloosa. But the Pats new quarterback didn't perceive New England's old quarterback as a threat had Jones remained in college.

Furthermore, Alabama didn't have any top recruits coming in for the 2020 or 2021 recruiting classes. It looked like the coast was clear for Maye to start early for Nick Saban. Then, everything changed when the No. 1 quarterback in the 2020 class flipped at the last second.

"After Drake commits to Alabama, Bryce Young decommits from Southern Cal and goes to Alabama. In the meantime, Mack Brown comes to Carolina and changes the program. Kind of made it a little bit more attractive. Carolina, despite the fact that he was [verbally] committed to Alabama, never stopped recruiting him," Chadwick explained.

As an underclassman, Maye hadn't signed his national letter of intent to go to Alabama yet, so his recruitment was still open. Brown and offensive coordinator Phil Longo had one clear advantage: Maye was constantly on campus watching brother Luke play basketball.

"The kid was on their campus constantly going to basketball games. So Phil Longo, who was the OC at the time and the quarterback coach, I will tell you Phil probably watched more basketball that season than he's probably ever watched in his life," Chadwick said.

Besides being a hyper-local product with endless ties to the program, several other qualities drew Longo to Maye, even beyond his physical traits as an athlete.

"It's not as hard to find talented quarterbacks as it is to find talented quarterbacks who want to know the game as much as play the game and are elite competitors," Longo told Patriots.com. "If it's not a good character guy, I have no interest. I don't care how good he is."

"It's hard to find players coming out of high school that are just obsessed with the game. You know the X's and O's. The actual knowledge of the game football wise, and it's hard to find guys that just want to compete. I could challenge Drake to any competition, whether he's done it before or not, and he'd kill me to win if he had to," Longo continued.

Longo acknowledged that the former regime left a hurdle for recruitment for him and Mack Brown, but Maye's remaining years in high school gave the new staff time to rebuild their reputation as a football school.

"I think we just became inviting enough now where the hometown guy could stay and be the hometown hero. That's exactly what happened," Longo concluded.

For Chadwick, the decision was whatever Drake wanted. But, after telling schools for years that Maye wasn't going to North Carolina, Maye's high school coach had one thing to say.

"Do whatever you want to do, but I'm not calling Coach Saban. You're gonna have to make that phone call yourself," Chadwick said.

Early Years at North Carolina: The Hometown Hero Sits and Waits

Although his de-commitment from Alabama was rooted in Bryce Young's decision to head to Tuscaloosa, Maye wasn't the only quarterback with an NFL future on the Tar Heels' roster.

When he arrived as a true freshman, current Seahawks quarterback Sam Howell was the starter in Chapel Hill for the 2021 season. Howell quarterbacked the Tar Heels for three seasons, starting as a true freshman through his junior year in 2021. The future NFL quarterback holds North Carolina school records for career passing yards (10,283) and touchdowns (92).

"I think Drake took notice that this is not the program of the last few years. We were wide-open offensively, and we were winning games by scoring points. He realized that the program was really turning around," Longo said.

The Patriots drafted Maye to be their franchise quarterback. However, he could sit behind a veteran as a rookie, such as Jacoby Brissett. The idea is for the Patriots staff to take their time with Maye, who is a younger player still on a rebuilding team.

For Maye, it wouldn't be the first time he had to sit after watching Howell lead the charge. According to the Pats rookie, Howell is one of his best friends, and Longo added that the year on the bench watching Howell was invaluable for Maye as he grew up in Chapel Hill.

"He got to sit behind Sam for a year while still repping in the offense. I think that year was valuable because Sam has been obsessed with football since the day I met him. He's constantly drawing up plays, studying defenses, and looking for ways to get better. Sam was a rarity."

"For Drake to sit in that room and watch this guy do that, by the time Sam left, that's where Drake was. Kudos to Drake because he was constantly looking to get better. He was able to recognize that one of the reasons Sam was so successful was because of his commitment to the preparation and the knowledge of the game, so he got on that bandwagon," Longo said.

"It got to a point where not only were you able to do anything you wanted to do on the field athletically because of his talent base. But you were never hindered or restricted by doing anything schemtically because of his knowledge base," Longo explained.

Maye's ability to follow in Howell's footsteps set him up for success at North Carolina, which could be a similar path he takes behind veteran mentor Jacoby Brissett in New England. Once he got on the field, Drake was ready to play at his best and lead his teammates into battle.

Maye Becomes the Starter at North Carolina, Sets Course for NFL Future

Although it was somewhat of a formality with Maye waiting in the wings, Maye battled it out in spring and fall camp with redshirt sophomore quarterback Jacolby Criswell.

When it came time to name Maye the starter, Longo called it one of the most satisfying moments he'd ever had with a player, noting Drake's genuine happiness to hear the news.

"I told him that he was going to be the starting quarterback for North Carolina that season. He just seemed so sincerely and genuinely happy to achieve that. I appreciated that because I don't know if it's easy to find many kids who are obsessed with the game nowadays. It just was the best moment I've had with him," Longo said.

During the 2022 season, the Tar Heels won nine games with a 6-2 record in the ACC. North Carolina earned a trip to the ACC Championship Game and the Holiday Bowl, while Maye was named the ACC Player of the Year with 4,321 passing yards, 38 touchdowns to just seven interceptions, and another 698 rushing yards with seven touchdowns on the ground.

"One game that stands out, we had a one-minute drill at the end of the half against Duke. He drives us down the field and on the last play of the half, he hits a running back in the right corner of the end zone by the front pylon. We scored to create some momentum going into halftime."

"At the end of the second half of the same game, fourth quarter, we got the ball with under two minutes to go. He leads another two-minute drive down the field. He throws the game-winning touchdown. It was two masterfully run drives at the end of both halves, and it was the absolute difference in the football game. That's the one that pops into my head first because of how drastically he impacted the outcome," Longo said.

Maye's 2022 season put him squarely on the NFL's radar. At the end of the season, the future Patriot was considered the second-best quarterback in the 2024 draft class behind Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams. It was clear that Maye was a blue-chip NFL prospect.

"All these experts say that he didn't have a good year. He had a great year."

After recruiting him to North Carolina and succeeding in the 2022 season, Longo left Chapel Hill to join Wisconsin's staff as the offensive coordinator under head coach Luke Fickell.

Like any young quarterback who loses their coordinator, it was a transition for Maye. Brown replaced Longo with longtime OC Chip Lindsey, who was previously at Central Florida. Lindsey tweaked some things from the system Longo was running, including emphasizing running the football more. Although the Tar Heels offense had a great year in 2022, Maye was their leading rusher with 698 yards. Lindsey wanted to be more balanced, which impacted Maye's stats.

"He had played one year and put up a lot of gaudy stats, but the team didn't run the ball very well. We made a conscious effort. We were gonna run the football better this year," Lindsey explained. "We did. We had a 1,500-yard rusher, and Drake still threw for almost 3,700 yards and didn't play in the bowl game, so he would've been right around the 4,000-yard mark."

"All these experts say he didn't have as good a year. He had a great year. He did exactly what we wanted him to do," Lindsey said.

The Tar Heels' current offensive coordinator added that Maye didn't have the first-round receivers or a great offensive line like some of the other quarterbacks in this draft. Instead, Drake was forced to "[make] a lot of plays on his own, and he's capable of doing that," said Lindsey.

One of the criticisms in Maye's draft-year film is that his footwork was unsettled, and he often lacked rhythm when throwing the ball. Lindsey also added context to that, explaining some of the mechanical tweaks he made when taking over the offense.

"They were a backpedal drop team the year before I got here. So in the shotgun, they were backpedaling on their throws. I wasn't a fan of that, so we changed it and went to more traditional footwork. In the quick game, it's going to be more push settle, and intermediate stuff is more punch settle. Then, the three steppers is the big three. That was a little bit of a transition for him," Lindsey explained.

North Carolina's offensive coordinator also outlined how Maye handled the adversity of a disappointing stretch run for the Tar Heels in his final season.

"We're in the last game of the year. We're playing a really good defensive team at NC State, and we're struggling. It would have been really easy for him to just ride off into the sunset knowing where he is in the draft and all those things," Lindsey began. "The guy just kept competing. I go to see him at halftime, we're down, and he's like Coach, I like this, I like this, I like this, let's go back to this. Just never any inkling that he wouldn't go and compete all the way to the end."

"That's the kind of thing that really stood out to me just about his drive and about how important it is for him to be there for his teammates," Lindsey added.

Maye might not have had the 2023 season he hoped for from an individual or team perspective. But his coaches felt he was the main reason the Tar Heels were bowl-eligible with an 8-5 record.

Pro Outlook With Quarterback Guru Clyde Christensen

Another prominent figure in Maye's development was quarterback whisperer Clyde Christensen, who has a few very notable mentees.

Christensen is best known for his work on the Indianapolis Colts coaching staff, where he spent over a decade with Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. Christensen, now a volunteer offensive analyst for his alma mater, was also Tom Brady's quarterbacks coach in Tampa Bay.

As far as experience with greatness, Christensen's resume is as good as it gets. Speaking on a conference call with reporters last Friday, Christensen laid out the similarities he sees in Maye compared to the greats he's worked with and discussed Maye's path to success in the NFL.

"You hate to even talk about him in the same sentences with those guys because of the longevity and how they performed so well for so long. But I think he has a lot of the same traits that give you a chance to be great," Christensen stated. "He processes information extremely well, a lot like Peyton. He has a humbleness and humility like Tom. He has that humility that just attracts teammates. He's one of the guys and yet he's able to rally people. Again, not comparing them, but like Andrew Luck, he has that athletic ability that he's a big kid who can run."

Specifically to Brady, Christsensen pointed to Maye's ability to lead as an attribute similar to the GOAT. The Patriots top brass put heavy weight into leadership, especially at quarterback, when evaluating the options at the top of the 2024 NFL Draft.

"I think he does have that awareness of what's around him, which is huge. It's a huge thing to have. When do you jump the offensive line? When do you just try and build them up? When do you kick the receivers in the butt? When do you hug them up? He does have a knack for that."

"I don't think that's a small characteristic to share with Tom. Tom was somebody who could read the sideline. He could be as patient as anyone I've seen and he could be as boisterous to get people going," Christensen said. "I've always thought that was one of the characteristics that [Brady] had that was terrific. This kid has that characteristic."

Due to NCAA rules, Christensen cannot provide hands-on coaching during the season. However, he works with Maye in the offseason to keep him sharp and serves as a resource of knowledge around the facility. In the latter sense, Christensen shared a great story.

"We eat together in college. So all the quarterbacks sat together, and I was always impressed that every dinner, toward the end of it, he'd always have a well thought out question. Hey, tell me, what is Tom Brady's routine the night before games? Tell me how Peyton handled cover zero. He would always have something. He was always looking to learn," Christensen said.

Lastly, Christensen objectively assessed Maye's developmental timeline at the next level. Christensen offered great perspective, with some expecting Maye to sit as a rookie.

"His footwork is a little bit raw, but he'll reel that in. We've been working hard on coming out from underneath center and some of those things. He knows that he's got to tighten up his footwork and get himself aligned correctly—all the things that go into footwork, as well as dropping from under center," Christen said.

Christensen also recalled something Manning had told him about starting as a rookie. Peyton infamously led the NFL in interceptions as a rookie starter with the Colts in 1998. Indy finished the season 3-13 but then reversed the script the following season with a 13-3 record and a trip to the playoffs.

"I remember Peyton always saying it's hard to get better if you're not playing. I do think playing earlier is better because it's the only way to learn how to do it. Does it have to be opening day? I don't think that. But it sure isn't a three-year plan where in three years you haven't started, it hasn't been your team," Christensen said, pointing to the importance of building relationships with coaches and teammates as a leader.

"I always liken it to a fighter pilot, where you have unknowns coming at you fast, and you have to fly the plane and do all these different things," Christensen continued. "You just have to teach it in progressions and as fast as he can get stage one, or whatever that is for the Patriots, and then you move on to stage two. He's gonna learn it fast and he's gonna be ready to go early. What that timeframe is, I'm not positive."

The Patriots top priority this offseason was to find a long-term solution at the quarterback position. Although there's a long way to go before we have a definitive answer, Maye has the foundational elements of a franchise starter at the most important position in football.

As we await the exact moment that Maye will become the starter, one thing is clear: it's a matter of when, not if, the team will put Maye in the cockpit as the pilot of the Patriots offense.

Patriots first-round draft pick Drake Maye arrives in Foxboro for his first visit to Gillette Stadium on Friday, April 26, 2024.

Related Content

Advertising

Latest News

Presented by
Advertising

Trending Video

Advertising

In Case You Missed It

Presented by
Advertising