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Meet the Rookies: LB Jerod Mayo

He seems to have all the qaulities the Patriots look for in a player. So, it's no surprise they made LB Jerod Mayo a top-ten pick in this year's NFL Draft.

Every University of Tennessee linebackers meeting starts the same way.

Before getting down to business, the players and their position coach, John Chavis, read a passage from a devotional book called "Our Daily Bread."

Once in a while, however, Chavis (who doubles as the Volunteers defensive coordinator/associate head coach) is so preoccupied that he launches directly into that day's game plan.

That's when Jerod Mayowould chime in.

"He'd say, 'Coach, we didn't do Our Daily Bread,'" Chavis recalled. "Each time he did that, it made me realize that there was always time for that, for spirituality in your life. He was always willing to stand up and say something, when others might have just let me continue talking."

But Mayo, the Patriots first-round pick in this year's NFL Draft, always admonished his coach politely.

"Oh absolutely," Chavis continued. "He's a 'yes, sir-no, sir' kind of guy. And he's always on time. In four years here, Jerod never missed a meeting and was never late."

OK, so good character is one quality that the 6-1, 242-pounder brings to New England. But how well can Mayo play linebacker? Particularly in the Patriots' complex 3-4 scheme, in which he'll most likely be asked to play one of the two inside positions.

"He's a student of the game, and he understands concepts very well. Jerod could probably come back here and coach the position better than I do," Chavis declared.

"I think he'll do well in your 3-4 up there. He played inside and outside in our dime package. He even played with his hand on the ground when we needed him to. He's a good pass rusher, too. And a lot of that is attitude. He doesn't mind doing what you ask him to do."

Mayo did nothing to dispute that assertion during his conference call with reporters shortly after New England made him the 10th overall selection.

"Wherever coach wants to put me, that's where I'm willing to play," Mayo insisted. "The 3-4 defense, those guys [in New England] put a lot of pressure on offenses and that's the type of defense that I like to play in."

Where he played during minicamp and passing camp this spring with the Pats was on the inside. But Mayo began his Volunteer career as a weak-side outside linebacker in 2005, after red-shirting in his freshman year, and has some experience at strong-side. Last year, he switched to middle linebacker. All he did in that capacity was lead the talent-rich Southeast Conference in tackles with 140 - the most by a Tennessee player in nearly two decades.

"He's a very intelligent player," head coach Bill Belichickobserved after selecting Mayo. "He understands schemes and concepts, he runs the defense, makes the calls, makes adjustments and all those things. I think that he has a lot to offer."

"I feel the transition won't be a problem," Mayo predicted, though not necessarily because of any of his innate abilities. "I can't help but to be good as long as I listen and take notes and learn from a great coach and a great coaching staff and great guys like Junior Seauand Tedy Bruschiand all those guys. I'm just going to be like a sponge and try to take as much in as possible."

If there was a concern about Mayo heading into the draft, it may have been his injury history. But despite having had surgery on both knees during his college career, Chavis doesn't think they'll cause him problems in the pros.

"He's been fairly healthy. He had an inside ligament that needed repair in his redshirt freshman year. But basically, in his junior and senior seasons, he didn't miss any significant time."

Belichick doesn't seem too concerned about Mayo's durability either.

"Our doctors feel fine about him. I wish my good knees were as good as his bad ones," he quipped.

Jokes aside, with the prestige of being a first-round pick come lofty expectations – none higher than the ones Mayo has for himself.

"I want to make a contribution somehow, whether it's on special teams or as a starter," he stated. "When people hear contribution, they think, 'Well, this guy is going to come in and get Defensive Rookie of the Year.'

"That's a goal of mine, but at the same time, you can make a contribution on special teams. That's one-third of the game. If that's the case, then that's the case. If I come in and do become a starter … I feel like I can succeed."

Of that, Chavis has no doubt.

"He's as talented as any player I've coached. Plus, he's the kind of guy that's real serious about everything. That's his personality. He's fun loving, don't get me wrong, but he comes to work every day looking at it as an opportunity to get better. I think you guys are going to enjoy having him up there."

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