John Navarre, like Patriots quarterback Tom Brady before him, has lived in the spotlight that is the Michigan quarterback. He has come under fire in a football-crazed college town where more than 100,000 fans pack the Big House on any given Saturday to watch Wolverine football.
Navarre takes many things from Brady, who he has watched win two Super Bowls in the four years since he left Ann Arbor. One thing he now knows is that where he gets selected on Draft weekend is irrelevant.
Brady was a sixth round pick in 2000, yet started and won a Super Bowl a season later. Then this past year, he collected his second ring and second Super Bowl MVP trophy.
"I haven't talked to Tom specifically about that, but he is friends with my quarterback coach at Michigan and has talked to him. He just said that you have an opportunity and you have to learn the ropes and establish yourself."
It's sound advice for Navarre, who like Brady, will probably be a second day selection. Brady was different, though, than other quarterbacks who came to New England to play behind the established Drew Bledsoe. He didn't come to play behind him, he came to compete with him.
Navarre, while certainly not arrogant about his desires, understands there will be a big learning curve, but will take that same approach even if playing behind a guy like Brett Favre, or Brady for that matter.
"Any quarterback that has a plan to play and be successful has to have that attitude," Navarre said. "That's not an insult to guys like Drew Bledsoe or Brett Favre. That's just being a competitive quarterback. The nature of the position is that you all compete with each other and make each other better."
The Patriots have selected a quarterback in each of the last three drafts and all on Day 2 – Brady in 2000 (6th round), Rohan Davey in 2001 (4th round) and Kliff Kingsbury last year (6th round). So Navarre could be a guy New England looks at late this April with the hope of developing him the way they did Brady and still hope to with Davey and Kingsbury while filtering out any who appear unable to take the next developmental step.
If this year's quarterback is Navarre, he will come behind a quarterback from which he learned a great deal as a young player at Michigan.
"Tom's leadership and confidence was contagious," Navarre recalled. "I learned from him and I strive to play at the level he's played at. He played with such confidence and he prepared and worked hard to know the offense and the defenses he was playing. That's what I took from him."
And like Brady, Navarre learned to play under the intense spotlight of Michigan. When he struggled, it got to the point where he even had to avoid campus sometimes, but he said that stuff bothered those around him more than it did him.
"Sometimes I had to avoid campus, but the students don't have the [guts] to say something to your face so it wasn't that bad. But they'll write it in the paper."
So now Navarre hopes to follow in Brady's footsteps. He hopes to take his pocket passer style to the NFL, learn and fight for an opportunity to prove himself. Just as Brady did.
"I think what he did [as a sixth round pick] helped all the quarterbacks who played at Michigan," Navarre said. "We have a good system and we pride ourselves on our pocket presence at Michigan. Tom is one of the best with that."
While Navarre still has much to prove, you won't find too many around New England who will argue his point about Brady.
Running back Steven Jackson met with the media Friday after weighing in at 240 pounds, about five over his playing weight. He will hold a Pro Day on March 11 where he expects to run in the 4.4 range in the 40. He compared himself to Jamal Lewis, Deuce McAlister and a young Eddie George. He certainly looked the part and is the whole package New England should be looking for in a running back. He said his goal is to be the first back taken and he feels like he fits in any style of offense, especially after catching 40 passes last year as an Oregon State junior in Mike Riley's pro style offense. He tore his right meniscus in the Las Vegas Bowl and had it scoped, but said it's fine and did not raise any red flags.
Chargers GM A.J. Smith, a Providence, R.I., native, was complimentary of the Patriots as many league officials have been this week. "We are a copycat league and the Patriots are getting a lot of attention for the lower-priced free agents. If you are successful, you're being looked at. But you have to look at the people. Scott Pioli is one of the best in the business. Bill Belichick is an Xs and Os master. He can take free agents off the street and young draft picks and get them to come in and execute. I marvel at that," Smith said.
The Green Bay Packers signed wide receiver/return specialist and former Patriot Shockmain Davis and allocated him to NFL Europe.