For the first time in the Belichick era, the Patriots drafted a wide receiver in the first round when the team selected N'Keal Harry with the 32nd pick on Thursday night. The wide receiver out of Arizona State is the focus of Patriots Nation, and while Patriots.com has you covered for stats and performance (like the epic one-handed catch below), we are making sure Patriots Nation gets to know their newest member off the field too.
Family is first for the Patriots draft pick. Not only was N'Keal surrounded by his extended family when he got the call from the Patriots, it was the first time he had seen much of his family in two years. His family hails from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a southern Caribbean nation, and some of his family members just recently received their U.S. visas, he said in his post-draft conference call.
According to That Football Girl's Melissa Jacobs, his family had applied for visas multiple times and had been denied, but "this time when they gave their reason for entry into the United States – to be with Harry when he's drafted – their 10-year Visas were approved. Finally, the family will get to spend time with Harry, be there for one of the top moments of his life, and see him play football live for the first time."
And being able to share this moment with his mom, grandmother and the rest of his family was priceless.
"A lot of my friends were here – you know, people that have just been by my side since Day 1. So, it was an extremely special moment for all of us," N'Keal said.
Though he had 50 or 60 family and friends with him, it had previously been just him and his grandmother living in Arizona. But coming to the States wasn't an easy decision.
When N'Keal was four, his mother, Naudine, and his grandmother, Felna, decided it was best for Felna to take him to the United States. For years, Felna raised N'Keal, working hard to support him and give him a life of love and opportunity. As he grew up and excelled in sports, his grandmother took on job after job to care for him, even if it meant coming out of retirement to do so.
It is a special bond, and he told ESPN before the Combine that his first paycheck was going to his grandmother to thank her for everything she did for him to succeed. He went to Arizona State to stay close to Felna, and she never missed a home game.
"I really do believe that it was for the best for my grandma raising me. That woman taught me so much, everything from having very good manners to how to speak to people, how to speak well, how to speak fluently. I'm just thankful," he told ESPN.
N'Keal being drafted surely will make his family proud, but he is also making history as the first person from St. Vincent and the Grenadines to play in the NFL. He will also reunite with former ASU teammate Christian Sam in New England, and Tom Brady even tweeted his excitement about the newest Patriot.
Football wasn't the only sport in which he excelled. His AAU basketball coach, T.J. Howard, told ESPN N'Keal could play in the NBA. As a high school senior, he went up for a shot and shattered the backboard, so Howard isn't exaggerating.
But the athletic talent doesn't stop with N'Keal. N'Keal and his girlfriend, Kianna Ibis, are something of a power couple. Kianna was a star player for Arizona State's basketball team, which made its first Sweet 16 this year.
Though he has yet to step on an NFL field and compete, N'Keal is already considering how he will use his platform to give back. He told "That Football Girl" that he wants to start a sports academy on St. Vincent and the Grenadines to help kids there hone their skills, so they don't have to move elsewhere to seek out opportunities.
Though he is new to the Patriots, N'Keal showed he has the New England mindset when talking with media after he was selected.
"Whatever Coach wants me to do – if he wants me to do one or the other or both – I wouldn't hesitate to jump at it," he said.
Welcome to New England, N'Keal.