Kliff Kingsbury is the only quarterback among the 30-plus hopefuls participating in the Patriots rookie mini-camp this weekend, but don't expect the sixth-round pick to experience any fatigue. That's because Kingsbury played his college ball at Texas Tech, where throwing the ball was the name of the game.
"Early in the season I used to throw anywhere between 250-300 times during a practice," Kingsbury said of his college days. "Here, with limited receivers and the reps down a bit, I'd guess maybe about 60 times per practice."
Indeed the Red Raiders offense was no place for the lazy. Kingsbury operated Tech's spread attack and threw more than 700 times as a senior. In doing so he racked up more than 5,000 yards passing and 45 touchdowns.
Playing for his father, Tim, at New Braunfels High School in Texas, Kingsbury directed a similar offense. He led the team to the Class 5A Division II semifinals, throwing for more than 3,000 yards and 34 touchdowns. But despite that success in one of the country's most fertile grounds for schoolboy football talent, Kingsbury received very little attention for major collegiate programs.
In fact, he got just one – Texas Tech. So when Kingsbury didn't hear his name until the sixth round (201st overall), the lack of respect didn't faze him a bit.
"I've always been one to prove myself," Kingsbury said. "I think everything happens for a reason and I'm going to make it a positive experience. Whatever happens I have a chance and that's all I can ask for. Anytime you come into a situation like that there's definitely motivation."
Kingsbury and the nine other members of the draft class joined various free agents and young Patriots veterans for the third of four workouts in Foxborough on Saturday morning. He directed the offense and showed an accurate arm, especially on shorter crossing routes. He appears to have a good grasp on the mechanics of the position, but intends to spend much of the coming weeks with his head buried in the playbook.
"It's like being a freshman all over again trying to learn everything," Kingsbury said. "But there's 28 other guys doing it with me. It's all a learning experience. I just want to come and learn as much as I can as quickly as I can."
Kingsbury's favorite target during the morning was free agent rookie Rob Milanese, a 5-9, 179-pound wide receiver out of Penn. Milanese is hardly an imposing figure among behemoths like first-round pick Ty Warren, but Head Coach Bill Belichick said he had other qualities that made him attractive.
"He was a very productive receiver at Penn," Belichick said. "He has a lot of speed and quickness and he catches the ball very well. He's been competitive out there both in the slot and as an outside receiver."
Most of Milanese's damage came on quick look in slants and crossing routes, which seemed to work hand-in-hand with Kingsbury's strengths. But on one play, during a one-on-one drill with the defensive backs, Milanese took on second-round pick Eugene Wilson and completely turned him inside out.
Milanese used a double move, heading toward the post before quickly darting to the outside and spinning Wilson around in the process. Wilson did a nice job of recovering, however, and was able to bother the receiver enough to prevent the completion.
The players were scheduled for one more workout on the field beginning at 3 p.m. but that session was closed to the media because of the soccer doubleheader being held at Gillette Stadium. Many of the rookies will return to their college campuses where some will complete their education. They'll have no commitments until passing camps begin later in the month and the formal mini-camp at the start of June. Until then, Belichick asked the players to keep a few things in mind.
"There are three things for them to work on between now and then," Belichick said. "One would be their physical conditioning. Also, they can work on the techniques they'll be playing in our system. And the need to learn the terminology and the basic calls and communication we use so they'll have a better recall when they hear it when they come back. And all the rookies are dealing with the whole relocation procedure, which can be very difficult at times."
Seventh-round pick Spencer Nead, a tight end out of Brigham Young, grew up in a tiny town in Idaho called Tetonia, which features a gas station, café, bar, church, an elementary school and not much else. But despite that remote location, Nead grew up a passionate Boston Celtics fan and was thrilled when he heard he'd be headed to the Northeast.
"I'm excited to be here," Nead said. "I'm a huge Celtics fan and I love Larry Bird. That was the first thing I thought of when I got drafted. I told my wife about four months ago that I had to get a pair of those Celtics shorts and when I got drafted she told me I might as well get them now."
Nead performed his missionary work in Omaha, Neb., unlike the many exotic locations most BYU students travel to. But that was necessarily a bad thing.
"You don't get a lot of a choice. It's kind of like getting drafted," Nead said. "You fill out an application and it says, 'Would you be good at learning a foreign language?' and you answer from 1-5. I kind of wanted to stay in the states and I put a low number." …
Tully Banta-Cain, the Patriots second of three seventh-round picks, looked good during coverage drills as an outside linebacker. That could be good news for Belichick and the Patriots since Banta-Cain was a defensive end at Cal. and is making the transition off the line to 'backer.
"When I was told I'd be coming here I knew they ran a 3-4 scheme," Banta-Cain said. "I knew I'd have to play outside linebacker and I'm starting to get the hang of it. Now that I'm here I just have to make the best of it."
Banta-Cain had an interesting story about the derivation of his name. He uses the surnames of both his mother and father and added his first name came as the result of a dream his mother had before he was born. …
Belichick indicated during his press conference that top pick Ty Warren was handling "some menial tasks" that are normally reserved for players of his lofty draft status. Warren reported that separating the team's meeting room with a divider and making sure each of the players is successfully transported from a local hotel to the stadium were chief among his duties.