BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots may already employ the most dominant tight end in football in Rob Gronkowski, but that doesn’t mean they can’t add to their depth.
They did just that by selecting Arkansas tight end A.J. Derby in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Here’s what Derby said when he spoke with the New England media shortly after being drafted.READ MORE: Worcester triple-decker fire death toll grows to 4 after additional victims discovered
Question: Can you walk us through your background when it comes to positional versatility?
Derby: Yeah, it’s kind of a long road. I was pretty stubborn about playing quarterback in my early time in college. That’s the reason I ended up leaving Iowa to go to juco [junior college], then to Arkansas, but I ended up meeting with [head] coach ‘B’ [Bret Bielema] and it worked out great to be a tight end. [I’m] just really looking forward to joining the Patriots organization and doing whatever I can to help the team win.
Question: I read that your dad played for the Cleveland Browns. Did he play under Bill Belichick during his time there?
Derby: Yeah, he actually went through one camp before he got released by coach Belichick. My dad told me that right when I got drafted by them. He let me know that he played for coach Belichick, too.
Question: Did he say what it was like playing under Bill Belichick?
Derby: He didn’t say much. He went through, like I said, one camp, so he was just trying to make a spot. I don’t think he really knew much about anything in the NFL. He was just scraping at the bottom.
Question: Where would you say you are on the learning curve in regards to the tight end position?
Derby: I wouldn’t say anything exactly about that, but I’m just learning every day. I think every tight end needs to learn, and I have a long way to go. I’ve only played one year. I’m going to try to do anything I can – if it’s on special teams, if it’s on offense – I’ll do anything the coaches ask me to do.
Question: What experience do you have on special teams?
Derby: I played kickoff at Iowa, kickoff return, and then at Arkansas I played punt and kickoff return as well. I have a lot [of special teams experience], and I’m a fast learner, so I’m looking forward to it.
Question: What can you tell us about Trey Flowers?
Derby: ll through the combine process everyone asked me who the hardest guy to block was and I said Trey Flowers every time, because I believe that. He’s a great player and the Patriots are very lucky to have him in the organization. He’s a great guy.READ MORE: New robots help Mansfield distribution center workers become more productive, less fatigued
Question: How did your experience at quarterback help you learn the tight end position?
Derby: It helped tremendously. I love the game of football and I learned from a quarterback’s perspective. I know what everyone is doing. I try to know what the quarterback is thinking. That’s the way I’m going to approach learning the offense, through the quarterback’s eyes, so I’m going to be where he wants me to be and that’s my plan going in.
Question: You had a pretty impressive touchdown catch and run against Alabama. Was that any kind of validation in terms of your ability to play that spot? When did you feel like you were getting it a tight end?
Derby: I’d say probably during the first game of the season, I caught my first touchdown against Alabama and I felt pretty good about it. I had a lot of ups and downs through the season and I’m still learning. I don’t know much more about that. I’m just trying to learn to be the best tight end I can be.
Question: Are there any tight ends that you model your game after?
Derby: Growing up I was a huge fan of Dallas Clark, being an Iowa guy growing up in Iowa. I like to watch Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten and Rob Gronkowski.
Question: What pre-draft conversations did you have with the Patriots?
Derby: I made a visit up there and then just met with them at the combine and I think my pro day, too.
Question: What aspects of your game do you feel most comfortable with right now and what do you need to improve on?
Derby: I think right now, most of my game I have to improve on everything. I don’t think I have one aspect that’s just standout great yet. I’m going to work every day to be the great tight end that the Patriots wanted when they drafted me and be good. I’m going to work every day to be the best teammate I can be and the best player for the Patriots.
Question: What is it about Rob Gronkowski’s game that you appreciate?
Derby: He does the little things right. I don’t think many people notice, because he’s such a great athlete and he’s such a great player, they don’t look at the little things he does – the releases, the small things that get him to be the player that he is.MORE NEWS: Staff shortage at Greater Boston Food Bank impacting hundreds of food banks statewide
Read all of the comments from the Patriots’ 2015 draft picks by clicking here.