The 2020 NFL Draft has now officially come and gone, and it was certainly a busy weekend for the Patriots, who drafted 10 rookies through the second and third days. The draft looked different than in years past, and in one of the more memorable moments of the weekend, so did the Patriots head coach.
There is a lot to learn about the newest Patriots, so let's get to know the guys who were drafted this weekend.
Kyle Dugger was the first off the board for the Patriots, and the safety comes to the NFL with much more than a chip on his shoulder. He is ready to prove he belongs at this level. Before going to Lenoir-Rhyne, a Division II school, Dugger was passed up by all other Division I programs. He made the most of his time in the program and left a mark, having won the Cliff Haris Award, which is awarded to the small college defensive player of the year, but the initial snub is something he will never forget.
"As far as a chip, yeah. It's definitely grown into a mountain on my shoulders. It's definitely something that's going to be permanent," Dugger said in his first conference call with New England media. "I'm going to carry it throughout my career as long as I have the opportunity to play the game."
Dugger isn't the only athlete in his family, either. His brother played basketball at LaGrange University, and his mother, Kim Oates Dugger, is in the Fort Valley State University Hall of Fame basketball player.
Josh Uche joines the Patriots from Michigan, where he was once teammates with Chase Winovich. Though Uche grew up in Miami, his family immigrated from Nigeria, and in an interview with NFL.com ahead of the draft, Uche said his household was more committed to soccer and basketball than football. Still, he found the game and latched onto stars like Sean Taylor and Reggie Bush.
According to MLive.com, when he began playing Pop Warner and wanted to quit because he wasn't very good, he said, it was ultimately his father that "toughened him up" and taught him to persevere. That mindset helped years later when Uche wasn't getting the playing time he wanted at Michigan, and in 2019, his teammates voted him the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year.
Uche doubled down on that again in his first phone call with New England media.
"I would say [New England] is a good fit for me because I'm a hard-[expletive] worker and the Patriots work their [expletive] off, so that's first and foremost," he said bluntly.
Next up for the Patriots was Anfernee Jennings, a linebacker out of Alabama, and the fact that he is still playing football after a horrible injury sustained in 2018 is a feat all on its own.
In 2018, Jennings took an accidental hit from a teammate late in a game against Clemson. He was pulled from the game in what was considered a serious, but fairly normal, injury. After scrolling on Twitter, according to an article on Yahoo! Sports, Jennings saw a concerning picture of himself and the hit from a follower and sent it to the team's trainer.
Soon, Jennings was being rushed to the hospital with artery damage and blood clots, and doctors had to work to save his leg.
Ultimately, Jennings had successful surgery and went on to play two more seasons.
His time at college proved to be a transformative time off the field, as well. Jennings earned two degrees during his time at Alabama --Bachelors in both human performance exercise science and public health. And in 2019, he welcomed his first child, a son.
Devin Asiasi comes to New England from UCLA, but before becoming a Bruin, Asiasi went to Michigan, where he was roommates with Uche.
Though Asiasi transferred from Michigan, he found solace in UCLA, a school much closer to home, and for him, it was about much more than football. Asiasi is the first in his family to attend college, according to Bleacher Report.
"God willing I make it to the NFL and make all of that money, but for me, it's all about my education and going to college," he said in 2015. "Football is going to provide opportunities and open doors for me. I'll get my degree, get a great job and take care of my family."
When Asiasi transferred to UCLA, he was reunited with one of his best friends, Boss Tagaloa. The pair played together at De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., and both have talked about their proud Polynesian roots.
The final Patriots pick of the day two was Dalton Keene out of Virginia Tech, and when it came to committing to a college program, Keene's decision was relatively easy.
According to a 2016 article, Keene has deep connections to former Virginia Tech defensive line coach Charley Wiles and former defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
"I've known two of the coaches, Charlie Wiles and Bud Foster, since I was a baby," Keene said at the time. "They're kind of like family to me. They make Blacksburg feel like home, and I've always grown up liking Virginia Tech, so that was a big part of it."
While at Virginia Tech, Keene earned a reputation of being a monster in the weight room, and his teammates even dubbed him "Rambo" because of it, according to Sports Illustrated.
On the third and final day of the draft, the Patriots selected kicker Justin Rohrwasser out of Marshall, and before he played football, he was a soccer goalie. This will be a return to New England for Rohrwasser. Before transferring to Marshall, he attended University of Rhode Island.
Michael Onwenu is an offensive lineman and makes for yet another Wolverine added to the roster. Like Uche, Onwenu's parents came to the United States from Nigeria, and Onwenu spent plenty of time there growing up.
In an article on MGo Blog, Onwenu said he and his family would go and visit his family in Nigeria multiple times a year and stay home for a month or so at a time. Though he goes by Michael, his full name is Michael Justice Nnamezie Onwenu, according to an article on Michigan Athletics website.
At Michigan, Onwenu majored in African American studies with a business minor. He hopes to one day use his business knowledge to start a company dedicated to shoes for people with larger feet.
Entrepreneurship runs in the family, too. His mother, Rosaline, began selling geles, or head-ties, out of the family's basement. Her designs were such a hit that she eventually opened Sterose International Boutique in Detroit, where Onwenu and his siblings spent a lot of time helping out growing up.
Justin Herron comes to Foxborough from Wake Forest, and the offensive lineman spent six years in North Carolina after red-shirting for two years. In his last season, he was voted to be a captain by his teammates. Herron described his leadership style in a phone call with New England media.
"Being a captain this past season was a huge honor, and it definitely taught me a lot about myself and it taught me more about how I can communicate with players and what it means to be a leader," he said. "For me, honestly, I think the one things about my leadership style that I like is the fact that I'm always respectful, no matter who I'm talking to. Coming in, I'm a rookie and I'm just planning on doing the best I can and just getting better every day and learning from all the vets that are up there and being respectful."
He earned degrees in psychology and communication, as well as a business minor. He earned a 3.9 GPA and even began a graduate program in liberal studies.
Though Herron is the first person to play football in his family, he is far from the only athlete. His father and two of his uncles played basketball at Villanova, and his uncle, Keith Herron, was selected in the second round of the 1978 NBA draft by the Portland Trailblazers. He played in the league until 1982.
Cassh Maluia is a linebacker from Wyoming, but despite being drafted at that position, he played both safety and quarterback in high school. He is one of six siblings, having grown up in Compton, Calif.
A feature in WyoSports.net details just how much of a role his family played in getting Maluia to compete and, more importantly, study at the college level. Though his father did not graduate high school, he wanted to make sure his kids "didn't become statistics."
"I'm the sixth child in my family. So, I have five lessons in front of me. I learned from my siblings. I had siblings that went to college ... that showed me that I can do it too," he said.
Like Asiasi, Maluia is proudly Polynesian, and in an article in the Casper Star Tribune, he said he listened to Samoan music to clear his head and relax himself before his Pro Day workouts.
The final pick for the Patriots in the 2020 draft was Dustin Woodard, an offensive lineman from Memphis, and over the course of his college career, he played at left guard, right guard, and center.
Though he went to school in Tennessee, Woodard grew up in Arizona and attended Chandler High School, the same as N'Keal Harry. Before committing to Memphis, Woodard had offers from Air Force, Navy, and multiple Ivy League schools, according to an article in the Daily Memphian.
Woodard and his family are incredibly close, so before leaving for school, his mother, Carmen, asked the coaching staff to treat her son like family, and Head Coach Ryan Silverfield kept his promise.
"I like to say he's my father away from home," he said. "We have a good bond, a good relationship. If I ever need anything I know he's going to be there for me."
And with that, the 2020 NFL Draft is in the books.