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FOXBORO – The verdict is in: Joe Judge, the Patriots’ special teams coach since 2015, is now serving double duty as the team’s wide receivers coach as well.

“It will definitely be challenging,” Judge acknowledged. “The best thing we have right now is we have very good support.

“Cam Achord (the Patriots’ assistant special teams coach) does a tremendous job. We have great assistants on the offense. There’s great support from the top on down with Coach (Bill) Belichick and Josh (offensive coordinator-quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels). The biggest thing I can do to help the team right now is just stay organized and diligent and make sure I’m taking care of all my responsibilities and help the team. Make sure they are prepared the best they can be.”

The wide receivers job on Belichick’s coaching staff was vacated in February when Chad O’Shea, who’d held the position since 2009, was named the offensive coordinator in Miami after Patriots linebackers coach and de facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores became the head coach of the Dolphins.

Meanwhile, here in New England, the 37-year-old Judge is taking the approach players take to any expanded roles they may be asked to perform: The more you can do …

“I’ve always wanted to coach football, and that’s about it,” said Judge. “I’ll coach the jayvee wrestling team if they tell me to. But any position in football, I’m excited to coach. Anybody on our team, I’m excited to coach. So anything that Coach asks me to do, I’m going to do with a full head of steam.”

In New England, it’s full steam ahead (the Patriots hope) with a new-look wide receiver corps.

Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett and Matthew Slater (primarily a special teamer) are back with the reigning Super Bowl champions. Braxton Berrios and Damoun Patterson were here last year, but neither of them played a down, the former spending his rookie season on the injured reserve list, the latter a member of the team’s practice squad. Who knows what the future holds for Josh Gordon, who is serving an indefinite suspension, his latest punishment in a career filled with violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Chris Hogan (to Carolina) and Cordarrelle Patterson (to Chicago) left as free agents earlier in the offseason. Maurice Harris (Washington), Dontrelle Inman (Indianapolis) and Demaryius Thomas (Houston) were signed as unrestricted free agents, although the move with Inman has yet to be officially announced by the team. Ryan Davis, Jakobi Meyers and Xavier Ubosi were all signed as rookie free agents.

But the headliner amongst all the comings and goings is N’Keal Harry, the 6-foot-2, 228-pounder the Patriots selected in the first round of the draft out of Arizona State.

“I think we’re excited to have him here to become part of our team, and he’s working right now hard to learn and get on page,” said Judge. “I think one thing these rookies figure out right away is when they get here, there’s a tremendous amount they have to learn. They obviously have talent. They’ve obviously been very accomplished with what they’ve done, otherwise they wouldn’t be at this level. But for any rookie, I would say probably in any building across the league, there are tremendous strides they have to make forward to be able to contribute and add to your football team.

“The best thing he’s done so far is show a very good work ethic and attitude to come on in and embrace what we’re telling him. It’s been a very short window at this point that we’ve been able to work with him and have him here, but I’m very excited to work with him as well as every other receiver we have.”

Be it special teams coach, the job he was promoted to in 2015 after serving as Scott O’Brien’s assistant from 2012-2014, or wide receivers coach, Judge says the approach doesn’t change.

“I think a good coach is a good coach,” Judge said. “Number one, you have to be a good teacher. That’s what players need more than anything. It allows them to do their job aggressively and effectively. So to me, whatever position you’re coaching, you have to be a great teacher.”

Feeling a draft: Friday’s announced signings of second-round draft pick JoeJuan Williams (cornerback, Vanderbilt), third rounder Yodny Cajuste (offensive lineman, West Virginia), fourth rounders Hjalte Froholdt (offensive lineman, Arkansas) and Jarrett Stidham (quarterback, Auburn), fifth rounders Byron Coward (defensive lineman, Maryland) and Jake Bailey (punter, Stanford) and seventh-round choice Kendarius Webster (cornerback, Mississippi) leaves the team with three unsigned picks: Harry and third rounders Chase Winovich (edge defender, Michigan) and Damien Harris (running back, Alabama).

The Patriots also made tight end Ben Watson’s signing as an unrestricted free agent official that day.

New-look staff: So here is how the new-look coaching staff shapes up under Belichick:

• offensive coordinator-quarterbacks – Josh McDaniels
• wide receivers – Judge
• running backs – Ivan Fears
• tight ends – Nick Caley
• offensive line – Dante Scarnecchia
• defensive line – Bret Bielema
• outside linebackers – DeMarcus Covington
• inside linebackers – Jerod Mayo
• defensive backs – Mike Pellegrino
• safeties – Steve Belichick
• special teams – Judge and Achord

Jacob Bailey Jersey

There’s nothing like a little perfection to help get the high school baseball season going.

Hermon High School senior Garrett Trask recently delivered what is a fairly rare occurrence — particularly during the weather-challenged days of late April. He pitched a perfect game Saturday in the Hawks’ 5-0 victory over visiting Presque Isle in the second game of a Class B North baseball doubleheader.

“I had pretty good control of the ball, but the biggest thing was I wasn’t really thinking about it,” Trask said. “I didn’t know I was pitching that well until the seventh inning. My first baseman Cody (Hawes) mentioned it to me, and I said, ‘Oh, yeah, I guess you’re right.’”

“That added a little pressure finishing it off.”

Trask required just 78 pitches in his first start of the spring. The right-hander relied primarily on the fastball but mixed in his curve and knuckleball to help keep the Wildcats off balance.

Trask was locked in a scoreless duel with Presque Isle junior Connor DeMerchant until Hermon (3-0) scored five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.

The Hawks were scheduled to play Wednesday at Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor.

“When we got those runs it gave me a good cushion and made me comfortable on the mound,” Trask said.

Hermon’s errorless defense included solid plays from center fielder Wyatt Gogan, second baseman Nate Allain and Hawes along with the pitch-by-pitch teamwork between Trask and catcher Adam Rush.

“He puts the glove in a good spot and focuses on keeping the glove still and opening it up,” Trask said. “He’s really good behind the plate with placement. He’ll put the glove where he wants it and locks the batters up pretty well.”

Trask has been a fixture as Hermon’s starting center fielder in baseball but has pitched somewhat sparingly for the Hawks before this spring. He estimated starting two or three games on the mound last season.

But his athleticism and experience in big-game situations made Trask a natural to rise within the Hermon pitching ranks this year.

Trask not only is a returning first-team All-Penobscot Valley Conference outfielder. He was a Fitzpatrick Trophy semifinalist and Big 11 Conference player of the year as a quarterback and safety on Hermon’s football team last fall. He also was a Big East Conference all-star for the Hawks basketball team that went 42-1 the last two winters and captured the 2018 Class B state championship before returning to the regional final again this year.

A little guidance from sixth-year Hermon head coach and former big-league pitcher Matt Kinney hasn’t hurt, either.

“He really helps me with the mechanics. He slows it down and really teaches the basics well,” said Trask, who plans to attend Husson University in the fall but is undecided about whether he’ll play a sport for the Eagles. “He shows you how to get more velocity and all the good stuff to keep your arm healthy and make you a better pitcher.”

Trask is part of a pitching rotation that also includes Jacques LaBonte, Keith Pomeroy and Eli Reed. He’s also one of nine seniors on the roster along with Rush, Hawes, LaBonte, Pomeroy, Kent Johnson, Dylan Leighton, Jacob Bailey and Shawn Samuels.

That experience leaves Hermon in a familiar position for the emerging season, as a contender in Class B North.
The Hawks have qualified for postseason play during each of Kinney’s five seasons as coach, ranking among the top five in the final Heal Points four times. They reached the Class B North championship game in 2016 and returned to the regional semifinals in 2017.

“This year we’re going to try to do as much as we can and see how it works,” said Trask, who expects to pitch in Friday’s 7 p.m. game against Foxcroft Academy at the University of Maine in Orono.

Related: Nearly 3 years after saw accident, senior pitcher returns to the mound

Byron Cowart Jersey

TAMPA ― His reserve of inner fuel is always at his fingertips, stored on his iPhone for easy retrieval.

He taps it on this bright New Tampa morning inside a Panera. Within seconds, the harrowing headline pops up: Rivals’ Biggest Busts: Top five No. 1 prospects who busted out.

Then, with a subtle downward scroll, Byron Cowart sees his name. He’s No. 1 on the list.

“Before every game at Maryland, I looked at that,” the former Armwood High force of nature said. “It was just motivation, man.”

By week’s end, Cowart likely will be able to look at that story ― published in September 2017 ― with less of a sneer and more of a snicker. At some point Saturday, a dose of redemption could arrive on that same phone, via a call from an NFL team.

“Fifth or sixth round, I think it would be open to a possibility of Cowart going,” ESPN draft savant Mel Kiper said.

And a career that seemingly flamed out 19 months ago would be re-ignited.

After an underwhelming tenure at Auburn spanning 26 games and two-plus seasons, Cowart resuscitated his football life this past fall at Maryland.

Starting all 12 games as a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, he totaled 38 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble.

“At Maryland, I grew as a person, as a football player,” he said.

That resurgence led to invitations to the Senior Bowl and NFL combine, where Cowart measured in as the heaviest defensive end (6-foot-3, 298 pounds) and offset a lackluster 40 time (5.16 seconds) with 26 reps on the 225-pound bench press.

He has met, formally or informally, with representatives from 29 NFL teams. Still a football novice of sorts upon arriving at Auburn, he said he has “killed it” on whiteboard work in his more extensive NFL interviews.

“One guy, he was like, ‘You ever thought about being a coach?’” Cowart recalled.

Only eight months ago, he still was a mostly forgotten entity, the Ryan Leaf of the recruiting industry.

The nation’s No. 1 overall recruit in 2015 according to ESPN and Rivals, Cowart didn’t so much sign with Auburn that February as he did with Will Muschamp. Had Muschamp not been dismissed as University of Florida coach the previous November, Cowart almost certainly would’ve been a Gator.

When Muschamp was hired as Auburn defensive coordinator in December 2014, Cowart essentially followed him there despite warnings from Armwood coach Sean Callahan, who realized Muschamp’s tenure on the Plains likely would be brief.

Related: Armwood’s Byron Cowart signs with Auburn

“I think (Callahan) was trying to prevent what happened at Auburn from happening, because I think he knew Coach Muschamp…would want to be a head coach again,” Cowart said.

“So he was just saying to be smart. But I had outside people thinking, ‘Oh, (Callahan) just wants you to go to Florida because it benefits him.’ I look back at it, I’m like, ‘Yeah, I should’ve just listened.’”

Armed with only four years of true organized football experience upon his arrival at Auburn, Cowart says he was complacent and a bit overwhelmed by the preps-to-college transition at first. He appeared in every game as a freshman, but barely made an impact in the defensive end rotation.

“I had a (position coach) that was like, ‘You need to catch on fast.’ And being a fish out of water I’m like, ‘I don’t know what’s going on,’” Cowart said.

“And then I didn’t do the extra stuff, because I’m thinking it just happens on Saturday. Practice a little bit, have success. But I didn’t know about the preparation and all that stuff.”

By the end of that season, Muschamp had been hired as coach at South Carolina. The following summer, Cowart was among four Tigers players arrested on a marijuana-possession charge. Another lackluster season followed.

By late September 2017, he was gone, granted his release to seek a fresh start and be near his ailing single mom in Tampa. Lacroria Wilson, who spent three years working consecutive eight-hour shifts daily as a certified nursing assistant to support her only child, had been diagnosed with fibroid tumors, primarily benign growths that originate in the uterus.

“He asked people, ‘Is my momma gonna die?’ They’d say, ‘No, but she’s real sick. She needs help. She needs to get these treatments done,’” Wilson recalled.

“So it made him feel bad like, ‘Oh, she did all this working for me, and now I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do on this field. It’s like she worked for nothing.’ I’m like, ‘Don’t look at it like that, Byron. We’re gonna go through problems, but we’re gonna get through this.’”

Confronting adversity in tandem long since had become a way of life.

Cowart said he has seen his imprisoned father, Byron Tarsha Cowart Sr., only twice. For the first decade or so of his life, his mother scraped together a living in Polk County before moving with her son to the outskirts of Atlanta to live with relatives.

When that relationship soured, Wilson and Cowart spent 11 months residing in the Gwinnett County nursing home where Wilson was employed. Seeking a fresh start, the pair moved to Tampa in February 2010.

“We came here with no plan,” Cowart said. “And I was drilling her on the way here like, ‘What are we gonna do? Where are we gonna go? We don’t know nobody in Tampa.’”

Initially, they were forced to reside in hotels before finding shelter at Metropolitan Ministries, which offers residential programs for women and families experiencing temporary homelessness.

By the time Cowart reached Armwood, Wilson had cobbled together enough money ― through her two nursing jobs ― to afford an east Tampa duplex.

“When I would come home in the morning, he would be in school. When he’d get home from school, I would be at work,” Wilson said.

“So on my way to work (in Plant City), I would stop by his school in Seffner and see him, give him $20 or whatever and spend time with him, and go on back to work. It was hard, but being a single mom, his father in prison, I didn’t have nobody to call on.”

Hence Cowart’s irrepressible sense of obligation to return home in the fall of ’17 as his mother’s physical battles persisted. Disillusioned and mildly depressed, his outlook changed when then-Maryland coach DJ Durkin ― Muschamp’s defensive coordinator at Florida ― contacted him.

With his mom’s blessing, Cowart suddenly found himself enrolled in a litany of classes (most of them online) at Hillsborough Community College in an effort to gain eligibility at Maryland.

“Really, I enrolled in like, eight classes at different times,” he said. “Some classes I’m getting in there late, but I just took whatever I could take, just so it would be transferable to go to Maryland.”

He arrived in College Park on Jan. 25. Thus began a breakthrough, bittersweet year.

Five months after Cowart’s arrival, he attended the first funeral of his life. Terrapins offensive lineman Jordan McNair died on June 13, two weeks after suffering a heatstroke during a team workout. He was 19.The fallout included a scathing ESPN report of a “toxic culture” at Maryland under Durkin, and ultimately Durkin’s dismissal. Against this grim backdrop, Cowart somehow flourished under his new position coach, Jimmy Brumbaugh.

“He micromanaged, and he was on me,” Cowart said. “He’s like, ‘What’s this block? What’s that block? What formation is this?’ When I first got there, it was a lot. But he’s like, ‘This is what you want, right? You want to be in the (NFL)?’”That yearlong residency of sorts enabled Cowart to evolve from washout to wild-card prospect.

Widely deemed as a defensive tackle in an end’s body, Cowart’s 81-inch wingspan, quick hands and raw strength suggest he could excel at run stoppage and evolve into a serviceable pass rusher.

NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein gives him a prospect grade of 5.29, equating to “NFL backup or special teams potential.”

“I watched (Maryland) and saw the development of (safety) Darnell Savage Jr. into a first-round pick, and I think Cowart’s got a chance on Day 3 to come in and show some pass-rush ability,” Kiper said. “I thought he handled run responsibilities better.”

Cowart will be attuned to Kiper all weekend. He and his mother annually have watched the draft, albeit in separate locations the last few years.

This time, they’ll be together in her New Tampa apartment. Nothing festive or frivolous is planned.

Just a single mom and her son preparing for life’s next move. The idea of Cowart getting drafted make’s Wilson’s voice crack.

“I can’t even put it into words,” she said.

“I’m just gonna be overjoyed and feel like, ‘Wow, this is what dedicating your life to your son and to Christ does for you in the end’.”

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Within a few hours after the New England Patriots selected Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round of the NFL draft, one of the players who could be most affected by the decision took the field at Gillette Stadium for some extra work.

Danny Etling, the former LSU quarterback selected in the seventh round in 2018, went through a warm-up for the first time since the competition at the backup spot to Tom Brady notably changed.

Stidham’s arrival as the 133rd overall pick locks him into a roster spot behind Brady barring an unexpected turn of events. The question is whether there will be a third quarterback joining Brady and Stidham, with Etling and veteran Brian Hoyer potentially battling it out for that one spot.

The altered outlook at quarterback is a good example of the immediate trickle-down effect that a draft pick has on those already on the team.

As for what the Patriots do this season, history in the coach Bill Belichick era can serve as a helpful guide. In years when they don’t draft a quarterback in Rounds 3-4, they usually keep just two quarterbacks on their final roster. But when they have drafted a quarterback in the third or fourth round, the club has always kept three signal-callers on their initial 53-man roster.

In 2002, it was rookie Rohan Davey (fourth round) and veteran Damon Huard. In 2008, rookie Kevin O’Connell (third round) joined four-year veteran Matt Cassel. In 2011, it was rookie Ryan Mallett (third round) and Hoyer (then in his third season). And in 2016, rookie Jacoby Brissett (third round) joined third-year man Jimmy Garoppolo.

Belichick, of course, might also point out 2000, when the Patriots took the unconventional step of keeping a fourth quarterback, because there was a sense that rookie Tom Brady (sixth round) might turn into something special.

As for 2019, if Stidham shows he is a quick study, there remains a chance the club could keep just him and Brady.

With the selection of Stidham as a springboard, and how that affects others on the team, here is a position-by-position breakdown of the roster (rookies are in italics)

Hjalte Froholdt Jersey

It’s a big weekend for former Arkansas offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt. He’s hoping to make his dream of playing in the NFL a reality.

“I don’t know,” says Froholdt, “trying to stay open minded. I’ve been speaking a little bit to Frank (Ragnow), and he said, ‘Dude, just relax. No matter where you end up it’s going to be a good situation for you and your life is going to change. Be excited about it, be happy.'”

Froholdt came to the United States his sophomore year of high school as an exchange student from Denmark. Wanting to play for a high school with a rich tradition in football, he landed at Warren G Harding HS in Ohio. Quickly, his knack for the game drew attention of Division One schools all over the country.

Froholdt came to Arkansas as a defensive lineman, but after his freshman season, he made the switch to the other side of the ball where he became one of the best offensive lineman in the country.

He’s now ready to take the next step and play football professionally. He says he’s not sure exactly where in the draft he could be chosen, but he’s says if a team gets him for cheap, it’s going to be a steal.

“I havent peaked nearly enough yet. I am not a perfect, well rounded player yet. I think that I’ve increased every single year, gotten better every single year. The game has slowed down and I think I am only going to continue to get better. I think that I am a valuable pick for some teams. I may not be one of those players they pluck in and start immediately. I have those expectations that I am going to start immediately, but I think that I am only going to be better as the years go by.”

The NFL Draft starts Thursday from Nashville, TN.

The 2019 NFL Draft is set to start April 25 and Danish offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt (Yell-duh Fro-holt), one of only two international players in the Draft, is projected as a solid draft pick, going possibly as high as the fourth round.

If selected, Froholdt would join countrymen Andreas Knappe and Pro Football Hall of Fame kicker Morten Andersen as the only Danes to play in the NFL.

The 6’5″, 315 lb, 22 year old native of Svendborg, Denmark who played football in his native country for the Søllerød Gold Diggers, first went to the United States as an exchange student in 2013. He landed in Ohio where he started playing football to make friends but excelled and moved to the IMG Academy in Florida towards the end of his high school career. He earned a 4-star recruiting grade there and after offers from a number of major schools ended up in Arkansas where he played guard and center. He developed quickly and was moved to the offensive line where he started all 13 games in 2016 at left guard. The following year he started all 12 games and did not allow a sack while taking only two penalties. Froholdt started his senior season at center, starting the first three games there before switching back to left guard for the final nine contests.

Yodny Cajuste Jersey

The Patriots selected West Virginia offensive lineman Yodny Cajuste with the 101st overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on Friday. He was the team’s final pick of day two and the second-to-last pick of the day for the NFL.

New England addressed the offensive line with key spots in question for 2019 and beyond. Starting left guard Joe Thuney is entering the final year of his contract. Uncertainty surrounds the health and fit of sophomore lineman Isaiah Wynn, who lost his entire rookie season to a torn Achilles.

Cajuste reportedly had a pre-draft visit with the Patriots, a harbinger of their interest in selecting him Friday. He put together an excellent redshirt senior season in 2018 with the Mountaineers before declaring for the draft. Cajuste was a First Team All-Big 12 selection after starting 11 games at left tackle for West Virginia, whose offense ranked 10th in the nation with 40.3 points per game.

However, Cajuste underwent quad surgery in March and was considered a relatively unpolished prospect, so he dropped to a compensatory third-round value in the draft. Here’s what NFL.com says about Cajuste in its Draft Profile: “He might end up being more of a positional and stalemate blocker than drive blocker in the run game so he will need to shine in pass pro, which will take work. He has starting tackle talent with the body type for consideration inside.”

Cajuste does have the talent to be a starting tackle in the NFL. He stands at 6-foot-5 and 312 pounds with 34-inch arms and natural athleticism. But scouting reports indicate he’s raw and needs time to develop. There’s no better place for a prospect like Cajuste than Foxborough with Bill Belichick and offensive line maestro Dante Scarnecchia.

It’s interesting that Belichick selected an O-lineman who may not be great in the run game. But if he and Scarnecchia can refine him into a starter, that could mean he eventually plays left tackle and facilitates a move to guard for Wynn. Cajuste’s frame could also help him move inside if he can’t stick as a tackle.

The Patriots’ left tackle situation remains in flux entering 2019 camp, even after the arrival of Cajuste. But a day two draft pick entering the mix eases concerns and adds raw talent to an unresolved depth chart.

Damien Harris Jersey

The New England Patriots took a running back in the third round, at pick No. 87 overall, over the weekend.

But it was more so about the player than it was the position when it came to Damien Harris.

Harris stands in as one of only eight in Alabama Crimson Tide history to have crossed into the 3,000-yard rushing tier. He is the only one who averaged 6.4 yards per carry – a program record among backs who handled a minimum of 400 carries. And he is one whose Tuscaloosa stay under Bill Belichick confidant Nick Saban spanned 56 games and two national championship victories.

“He falls into the ‘good football player’ category that’s been consistently productive over the course of however many years,” Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said of Harris in his press conference Friday. “Look, everybody knows what we think about the Alabama program, how highly regarded it is and the mutual respect that Bill and Nick have for one another. But this is a player who, over the course of the last three years, basically has averaged 1,000 yards in the SEC – and they have a lot of good backs.”

The same could be said of the Patriots.

New England invested No. 31 overall in Georgia’s Sony Michel a year ago, and the Georgia Bulldog would go on to set the NFL rookie playoff record with six rushing touchdowns after already becoming the most productive greenhorn Patriots back since Belichick’s arrival. Behind him sits Super Bowl receptions record-setter James White, along with Rex Burkhead and the recently re-signed Brandon Bolden.

But the idea that the Patriots could reserve five roster spots for the rushing stable isn’t unrealistic.

The 5-foot-10, 216-pound Harris wouldn’t have been just the sixth running back drafted this spring if it were.

“This guy has been a pretty consistently productive player,” added Caserio. “So this more, I would say, falls into the ‘good football player’ category relative to the other options that we were looking at on the board. That’s where he kind of fell.”

Only Alabama teammate Josh Jacobs, Penn State’s Miles Sanders, Memphis’ Darrell Henderson, Iowa State’s David Montgomery and Florida Atlantic’s Devin Singletary went before Harris at the position.

It is a position the Patriots got into by packaging No. 73 and No. 205 overall to the Chicago Bears in return for No. 87, No. 162 and a fourth-rounder in 2020.

“It was a dream come true,” Harris, a second-team All-SEC selection as a senior this past season, told reporters on his post-draft conference call. “I’ve been waiting on this moment for I don’t even know how long, since I first picked up a football, and just to be in this moment, be with my family, my friends, everyone that’s supported me is unbelievable – an unbelievable experience.”

Harris, 22, fits the Patriots’ mold athletically, having posted a 40-yard dash of 4.57 seconds, a vertical of 37 inches and a broad jump of 121 inches at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. He’ll now look to fit in as the 10th true halfback Belichick’s war room has chosen over the last 20 drafts.

“I think I’m just a dependable player, somebody that whenever you ask me to do something, I’ll do it,” said Harris. “I think I just show a lot of great attributes on the field, things that help me be a great running back and they can help the team be successful. There’s a lot of things that I can do well, there’s a lot of things I can still improve on, so I’m just ready to come in and be my best me and get to work Day 1.”

Harris racked up 3,070 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns over 477 career carries at Alabama, tacking on 407 receiving yards and an additional two touchdowns on 52 catches.

That suits the category.

It’s a game of inches — and dollars. Get the latest sports news and analysis of valuations, signings and hirings, once a week in your inbox, from the Forbes SportsMoney Playbook newsletter. Sign up here.

Chase Winovich Jersey

Chase Winovich’s journey to the NFL was long and full of twists and turns — and ended Friday night, when the Michigan defensive end was drafted by the New England Patriots in the third round, 77th overall, in the 2019 NFL draft.

He’s the third Wolverine drafted this year, behind fellow defenders Devin Bush (10th overall) and Rashan Gary (12th overall).

Winovich, a 6-foot-3, 256-pound defensive end, was commonly projected as a second-round pick leading into the draft after a stellar senior season with the Wolverines this fall. He improved his draft stock this winter after participating at the NFL combine, where he ran a 4.59 second 40-yard dash and put up a 4.11 second shuttle time. At the next level, Winovich projects as a potential stand-up outside linebacker who can rush the passer. Few could have predicted this several years ago, when Winovich was a converted tight end who struggled to earn playing time on special teams, let alone make the depth chart.

Winovich, a former 4-star recruit from Thomas Jefferson High School in Clairton, Pennsylvania, signed with Michigan in 2014 as part of former coach Brady Hoke’s final recruiting class. In his first year on campus, Winovich struggled to keep weight; in an interview with ESPN this past fall, he recalled he was so light by the end of his freshman year that he nearly weighed less than the minimum required to participate in a team workout.

More: Chase Winovich displays versatility at Pro Day

Winovich’s second year on campus was hardly more successful. At the request of the new coaching staff, Winovich switched to tight end and spent most of his time on the scout team. He found a sliver of playing time on special teams later that season, before seeing several snaps at tight end in Michigan’s 41-7 blowout victory over Florida in the Capital One Bowl.That offseason, Winovich once again switched positions, this time finding a permanent home at defensive end. He was a rotational player during the 2016 season, tallying 32 tackles (8 for loss) and 5.5 sacks despite playing limited snaps. As a redshirt junior in 2017, he took over the starting role and was named to the All-Big Ten team while recording 73 tackles (19 for loss) and 8.5 sacks.

Following his fourth year at Michigan, Winovich chose to return for a fifth year over going pro. In his final season, he was a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten nominee and tallied 59 tackles (15.5 for loss) and 5.0 sacks while battling injuries toward the end of the year.

While Winovich was at times a dominant player whose production the past two seasons shot him up Michigan’s record books, he may be just as well known for his conduct off the field. Winovich became instantly recognizable due to his shoulder-length blonde hair; he dyed his hair orange in 2018 for a fundraiser for the ChadTough Foundation, helping raise $211,246.

More: Chase Winovich proves he’s more than a motor guy

Winovich was also an outspoken player who coined phrases such as “revenge tour,” which described Michigan’s approach to a three-game stretch this past season against Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State — all teams that beat the Wolverines in 2017. And after Michigan beat the Spartans this past October, Winovich called Michigan State “little brother.”

Combine everything that made Winovich who he is — the confidence, bluntness, motor, all of it — and you have one of the more recognizable players of the Jim Harbaugh era. Not bad for a former scout team tight end.

“I love Michigan, the school, so much,” Winovich told reporters in December. “It’s literally the first thing that I have loved outside of my family.”