The Patriots top two draft choices – running back Laurence Maroney and receiver Chad Jackson – made their first official appearance as members of the New England Patriots on Monday.
Maroney only started 14 of 36 games at Minnesota but he still became only the third player in Big 10 history to rush for over 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons. After sharing carries in college, Maroney is ready to take on a similar role with the Patriots.
"I have a lot of great backs in front of me right now," Maroney said. "I'm going to learn from them and I think they will be able to help me out a lot. I'm ready to come in and take on any role the team needs me in."
Some people questioned Maroney's size coming out of college but he insists that the school didn't list him at his real playing weight.
"I'm actually bigger than what they listed me at," Maroney said. "They listed me at 205 and I haven't been 205 in a while. My playing weight in college was always 210, so I was bigger than people thought."
As a junior, Maroney rushed for 1,464 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. He's always been known for his speed and big-play ability and that's something he prides himself on.
"Every time I get the ball, I'm trying to score so I can get off the field," he said.
Maroney said he's always considered himself an underdog and he wants the New England fans to know that he's a hard worker.
"I'm always working hard to be the best player I can be," Maroney said. "I try not to compare myself to other backs because I don't want to walk in anyone's footsteps. I want to create my own legacy."
Jackson was considered by many to be a first-round draft choice but he slipped into Round 2, so the Patriots traded up to get him at pick 36. The team was actually thinking about drafting Jackson at 21, so in essence, they came away with two first-round picks on their board.
"When the Patriots were on the clock, I was waiting for the phone call but it didn't happen," Jackson said. "Then I got the call in the second round and that was even better because they traded up to get me."
Jackson had a productive junior season at Florida catching 88 passes for 900 yards and nine touchdowns – despite playing in a new offensive scheme under Urban Meyer.
"I usually played in the slot last year but I think I'm more of an outside receiver because of my speed and big-play ability," Jackson said.
He did thank his college coach for cracking the whip on him when he arrived at Florida.
"At the beginning of the season I was kind of lazy," Jackson admitted. "But as the year went on under Coach Meyer, I improved in my preparation and blocking, so I thank him for that."
Jackson is very happy to be a Patriot, even if he has to deal with the New England winters.
"I think this is a great program so hopefully I can come in and learn from everyone and contribute as much as I can," Jackson said.
"I don't really like the snow but I can adjust to it," he joked. "I've played in cold weather before so maybe I can go out and score a couple of touchdowns and make some snow angels."
The Patriots are hoping that both Maroney and Jackson will be making a lot of snow angels after touchdowns this year and well into the future. The two big-play rookies have a chance to contribute right away and will provide more weapons for Tom Brady and company. One thing is for sure, with Maroney and Jackson in town, the Patriots offense just got a lot more exciting.