The Patriots sure know how to pick 'em.
Every year, it seems, when New England holds the jersey-presentation ceremony for its first-round draft pick, the skies are blue and the sun shines as brightly as the future of the young man being honored.
Today was no exception. On a slightly breezy but beautiful spring day here in Foxborough, linebacker Jerod Mayo made only his second trip ever to the New England area. His first came just a few weeks ago, when the team hosted him for a pre-draft visit.
Displaying the requisite Number 1 jersey (appropriate on this first day of May, as well) Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his son, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft, beamed as they introduced their new star to the local media.
Afterwards, Mayo was all smiles when he approached reporters for a quick Q&A. He was asked for his first thoughts on becoming a pro football player.
"I'm just excited … overwhelmed really," Mayo admitted. "Just sitting in Mr. Kraft's office and talking with the owner of the team, it's just really overwhelming. I'm ready to get my playbook and start learning the defense."
Mayo and the rest of this year's draft class, along with several as-yet-unannounced rookie free agents, will participate in their first professional practices this weekend during rookie mini camp, which starts Friday morning. Mayo said he's anxious to get in uniform to make an impact with his new team.
"I definitely am. Whether it be this year or years to come. I'm hard nosed, always trying to make a play down hill and a contact guy. I'm a hard worker and I'm coming here to contribute to this team in any way that I can, whether it be with special teams or with the starters. I'm coming to make a contribution and help with a championship."
During his years at Tennessee, some compared Mayo to another one-timeVolunteer linebacker, former Denver Broncos Pro Bowler Al Wilson. Mayo's reply was demure when a reporter asked him about that.
"Al is a good friend of mine. I really don't like comparing myself to other players but he is a Pro-Bowler and hopefully I will be able to accomplish some of the things he did."
He may sound like a polished veteran, but it's clear there's still a bit of a wide-eyed kid in Mayo right now, just days removed from his being made the 10th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
"I don't think any of it has sunk in yet," he said with a smile. "It feels like the first day of school. The day before the draft, it felt like the day before Christmas. I was trying to go to sleep at seven o'clock and waking up at three o'clock in the morning.
"I never thought I would be with a team that only lost one game last year, but I am excited to learn from some of the great vets [here in New England] and hopefully become as good as those guys are."
As the midday event got started, Robert Kraft addressed the assembled media with a quick anecdote about his initial meeting with Mayo, only moments earlier.
"I said, 'Tell me something that you think about the connection up here,'" Kraft recalled. "Without even blinking – he didn't know I was going to ask him – he said, 'Kraft and Mayo go together.'"
Yup, the Pats sure know how to pick 'em.