Who would you trust to take care of your children?
Not just anyone, right?
Which is why few compliments are greater than the one Rick Korch recently paid Brandon Meriweather.
"I'd have no problem having him baby-sit my kids…[they] would have a great time with him," Korch volunteered when asked to describe the Patriots rookie and former Miami Hurricane safety.
If anyone in football knows the real Meriweather, it's Korch. For the past couple of years, Korch has been the Sports Information Director at the University of Miami. His résumé also includes a nine-season stint in the Jacksonville Jaguars' public relations department.
Much has been reported about Meriweather since the Patriots made him their first-round pick in this year's NFL Draft. Initially, the media attention seemed more focused on Meriweather's two perceived character flaws (a brawl during a game last year and an unrelated gunfight) than on his football skills.
Korch insists those incidents were isolated aberrations, not representative of the Meriweather he knows.
"Brandon is very shy," Korch observed. "He can be outgoing around his friends, but not around people he doesn't know that well…He was shy around me for a few seasons, until he got to know me."
Shyness wasn't a problem for Meriweather, however, when he first met former teammate and fellow safety Kenny Phillips. According to Korch, how Meriweather treated Phillips epitomizes why the Patriots decided to draft him.
"Kenny Phillips was a highly touted freshman a few years ago, the best defensive player in the country coming out of high school, and Brandon, an upperclassman, took him under his wing," Korch recalled.
"[Former head coach Larry] Coker said, 'Why are you being so nice to this guy? He's trying to take your job.' Brandon said, 'Coach, if he does take my job, we'll just be a better team.'
"I don't know if I've ever seen anyone help out anyone who's trying to take their job as much as Brandon did with Kenny," Korch continued. "Now I see Kenny taking that role with some of our younger guys. So, Brandon has left a lasting, positive impact on this program. Does he have leadership qualities? No doubt about it."
What about the highly publicized free-for-all between Miami and Florida International (Meriweather didn't start the fracas, but he's clearly seen on tape taking part)?
"Before that fight broke out, the [opposing] players had been instigating Brandon the whole game, taking cheap shots at him…he just lost his cool."
A few months earlier, Meriweather and his roommate noticed a strange vehicle parked outside their home. When they went to investigate, someone in the car fired a shot that struck Meriweather's roommate. Meriweather returned fire.
"He probably shouldn't have had the gun in the first place, but he purchased it legally, and the police say he had a right to defend himself and his friend," Korch reasoned. "I have more respect for him for doing something to help his friend than if he hadn't."
The respect of the Patriots organization and its fans is what Meriweather, just like every other New England rookie, will have to earn. Korch is convinced that Meriweather will win everyone over.
"He's just a nice kid, and he's become one of my favorite people," Korch said, before correcting himself.
"I shouldn't call him a kid. He's a man now, and he's going to prove that up there in New England."