BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots drafted Josh Uche with the 60th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and the Michigan linebacker already has a pretty good feel for the Patriots defense.
That’s because he told reporters Friday night that he’s been playing as the Patriots in Madden the last few weeks. Perhaps the 21-year-old had a feeling that Bill Belichick would take him come draft time. Or maybe he just liked what former Wolverines teammate and his soon-to-be Patriots teammate Chase Winovich had to tell him about New England.
Shortly after the being selected by the Patriots, Uche spoke to the New England media on a conference call. Here’s what he had to say.
(Transcript provided by New England Patriots.)
Q: At Michigan, you played linebacker both on and off the line. Do you have a preference or one you feel more comfortable doing?
JU: There’s really no preference. At Michigan, Coach [Don] Brown had me do a multitude of things so it just really depends on the game plan. Whatever is needed of me, I’ve got to get the job done.
Q: There was a play against Penn State last year where you ran the seam with K.J. Hamler. What do you remember about that play?
JU: Yeah, it was a very unique play. I was playing off-ball [line]backer and the game plan was to force any dig route in front of me. So I just remember K.J. running a sluggo [route] which kind of made me stop and start my feet. It made me stop and play the dig, and he just took off. He booked it down the seam. My responsibility was to carry anything vertical, and I just remember just running as fast as I could and playing late hands – as soon as his hands went up, just playing through his hands and keeping my composure.
Q: From your standpoint, you played half the snaps for Michigan but it seems like you got to do more at the Senior Bowl. Were some of the things you were allowed to do at the Senior Bowl a true representation of who you are as a player?
JU: Definitely. The stuff I did at Michigan is a representation of myself as well. The Senior Bowl, there wasn’t really any restrictions or anything like that. I just got to be me and got a lot more opportunities and things like that. But I had opportunities at Michigan, too. So I feel like both really allowed me to showcase who am I as a person and as a player. So they were both very, very good experiences for me and helped me get to this point.
Q: As a player, it might not have always been the way you might have wanted it to be in college but you came on strong at the end. Tell me how much hard work it took for you to get to this point.
JU: It took everything in me. It took a lot of faith, a lot of prayers, blood, sweat and tears. When things got hard, of course the thoughts of transferring and giving up started to creep in, but I stood ten toes down and I just continued to fight and claw for an opportunity. When my opportunity came, I made sure I was ready and I made sure I executed and I made sure I kept making plays so I could keep getting more chances. I just took every play, every snap like it was my last, and that’s what got me to the point I’m at today.
Q: What is your connection like with Chase Winovich and have you guys had a chance to connect since you found out you’re going to be teammates again?
JU: Yeah, that was my boy. When he was at Michigan, I remember before every game we talked about what techniques we were going to use to beat the tackles that week. We would just always go over the motions in practice and, ‘Okay, this move is going to work on this guy. I feel like this guy struggles with this move.’ It’s just great to be able to have that chemistry back possibly. He’s just a great guy – high motor, high character, high effort guy. He’s just a really good human being.
Q: When you hear that you’re going to be playing on the New England defense for Bill Belichick and you’re going to be playing alongside the likes of Dont’a Hightower and Devin McCourty, what does that inspire in you?
JU: It inspires a greatness. Those names right there just ooze greatness. I was playing with the Patriots on Madden for the last couple weeks and just seeing how efficiently things run and the uniqueness of the defense and stuff like that – everyone does their job, everyone’s very locked in, very disciplined. Just when you say those two names, it inspires me to be great.
Thank you God pic.twitter.com/Z1QCVA2TZg
— Josh Uche (@_Uche35) April 25, 2020
Q: Don Brown has a history of hard-charging defenses and your reputation is as a hard-charger and a hard-hitter. Are you confident in your ability to learn the pro defense in terms of being able to get out in coverage with pro receivers?
JU: Most definitely. I have the utmost confidence in myself. A lot of guys don’t know how complex Coach Brown’s defense is – there’s so many different depths to it and levels to it and a bunch of different plays and sets and different formations you’ve got to do different things with. I definitely feel prepared for what’s to come because Coach Brown is the best in the business and he makes sure his players get ready.
Q: Chris Merritt is the head coach at Bryant University and he was your high school coach. What did he teach you that helped you get to the player you are today?
JU: I could tell you a story right now. I was a sophomore. I had just transferred to Christopher Columbus High School. I had a pretty good spring but I saw a bunch of my teammates getting all these college letters and flyers in the mail and I was getting upset that I wasn’t getting any. I kept asking, ‘Did any mail come in? Did any mail come in?’ And then finally he got so sick of it, he scratched off – another kid on the team, his name was Josh as well – he got one of his letters, scratched off his last name and wrote mine on there and gave me it. I looked at it and I’m like, ‘What are you doing?’ It threw me off, but taught me to work even harder. It put a chip on my shoulder and by the end of that year, by my junior year, I had offers from Alabama, Florida, Auburn. That’s really a memorable story I have of Coach Merritt.
Q: You said that you had been playing with the Patriots on Madden. Did you know this pick might have been coming?
JU: I mean, I really didn’t know. I knew they were interested and we had watched a lot of their film. Being at Michigan, we did some things that they did on defense as well – we implemented into our system. But I would play with every team on Madden, use their defense, see how their defense worked and stuff like that. I got back to the Patriots a couple times and I played with their defense a couple times.
Q: I know you played both on and off the line at Michigan. Did teams want you to play both roles in the NFL or one role more than another?
JU: It’s just whatever the coaches need me to do, that’s all it is. Whatever they need me to do, I’m going to do it to the best of my abilities.
Q: Can you take us through the number of times you were able to speak with the Patriots during the process and what were your chief takeaways?
JU: I mean, I didn’t have a formal [interview] with them at the combine. But I sat down with Coach Belichick’s son and we talked for a little bit and I talked with Coach [Jerod] Mayo on a virtual conference call. That was about it. I hadn’t heard anything from the Patriots for a little bit. When I got the call, I just knew that it was a perfect fit for me. I feel like the Patriots are going to maximize everything that I have to offer and they a run a tight ship just like Coach [Jim] Harbaugh does – probably better and everything like that because it’s the pros. It’s just a blessing. I knew they were interested, but I didn’t know it was going to happen like this.
Q: When you spoke with Coach Mayo, what were some of the things you covered on that virtual call?
JU: Just a multitude of things. We got into talking about myself, my life, my family, stuff like that.
Q: You noted how you feel this is a nice fit for you. Can you tell me more about why your strengths are well-suited to the Patriots and why you think the Patriots ended up drafting you?
JU: I would say it’s a good fit for me because I’m a hard-ass worker and the Patriots work their asses off, so that’s first and foremost. The Patriots themselves are just very unique, very diverse, very dynamic and they do a bunch of different things, and I feel like that’s who I am as a football player. I just feel like it’s definitely a perfect fit.