BOSTON (CBS) — After sort of ignoring the position last year, the Patriots finally addressed their need at tight end in the draft this year. That effort began with a trade to move up and select Devin Asiasi out of UCLA.
The Patriots traded up nine spots to select Asiasi at No. 91 overall. Somewhat surprisingly, Asiasi was the second tight end drafted overall, after Cole Kmet went to the Bears at No. 43 overall. The Patriots would later draft tight Dalton Keene out of Virginia Tech later in the third round, too.READ MORE: I-Team: High School Failure Rates In Massachusetts Jumped During Pandemic
A native of San Mateo, California, Asiasi returned to his home state to play for UCLA after spending a season with the Michigan Wolverines.
Here’s what Asiasi said on a conference call with New England reporters shortly after he was drafted. (Transcript provided by the New England Patriots.)
Q: How did playing for Chip Kelly at UCLA help prepare you for the NFL, especially knowing that Kelly and Bill Belichick have a really tight professional relationship?
DA: Oh, it definitely helped me out a lot. Obviously with Coach Kelly’s history of being in the NFL and having those NFL-type offenses and things like that, it definitely prepared me, I feel like. I feel pretty confident in the preparation that was put into me by Coach Kelly.
Q: Your ball security is one of your strengths and that is a big deal here in New England and in the NFL. What kind of priority do you put on taking care of the football after you catch and run with it?
DA: Definitely think that’s a product of our team, product of the coaches and having an emphasis on ball security. We have our ball security drills that we do every day. So, it’s definitely an emphasis throughout the week to secure the ball, take care of the ball and protect the ball if possible.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) April 25, 2020READ MORE: 'Had A Heart Of Gold': Construction Worker Killed In Newton Identified As Russell Harron
Q: Your quarterback at UCLA was Austin Burton who’s from the Boston area. Has he talked to you or contacted you to make you familiar with the Boston area and with the Patriots franchise you’re going to be joining?
DA: Yes sir, definitely. That’s my guy. I transferred into UCLA the same time he was just coming in from Florida, so we kind of have a unique relationship just being two guys that came in on a different schedule, you know. He definitely hit me up. I think this morning or last night, he told me ‘welcome to Boston’ and everything, so I can’t wait to get out there and maybe see him, just get engulfed in that environment.
Q: Did he tell you about the Patriots franchise at all and what is your familiarity with the franchise?
DA: I’m pretty familiar with the franchise. Being a guy from the West Coast and being a guy who’s actually from San Mateo, Tom Brady is like a god over here. He’s the man. So, we’re always keeping informed on what’s going on over there, especially with Tom Brady being the hometown hero basically. So, obviously we know Coach [Bill] Belichick and the things the Patriots have done in the past and everything. We know a lot about the Patriots over here.
Q: I understand you roomed with Dalton Keene at the Combine. What kind of relationship did you form there? And also, how well did you get to know Josh Uche during your year together at Michigan?
DA: Oh, man Dalton was a great roommate. Definitely created a good relationship with him when I was over there – just kept it really respectful. We were both there to do our thing and go out there and perform and perform to the best of our abilities. We definitely did that, and I felt like after the whole Combine went down, we kind of relaxed and had a good conversation about the whole thing. [Inaudible] We definitely gave each other good luck and all that so I’m looking forward to going out there and working with him. Josh Uche, that’s my guy. Came in the same time I came in over there at Michigan, he was my roommate actually for my freshman Bridge Program at Michigan. But me and him have a unique relationship as well, just sharing that kind of freshmen year together, going through that whole Summer Bridge program together at Michigan and kind of getting used to the college life together, you know? So me and him definitely have a good relationship and I can’t wait to see my boy for sure.
Q: Throughout your life, were there any tight ends you modeled your game after? Or are there any tight ends you watch film on now and try to add stuff from?MORE NEWS: 'I Don't Want To Be A Vigilante': Mikayla Miller's Mother Demands Justice At Hopkinton Rally
DA: I was a quarterback growing up, so I didn’t really look up to any tight ends. I was literally looking up to quarterbacks. My favorite quarterback was Michael Vick. So it was kind of different growing up. But as I got to be a tight end, of course – I started playing the position just looking up to guys who were doing it and guys I can take different parts of their games from. So, it’s guys like George Kittle, obviously Gronk [Rob Gronkowski], who is one of the best tight ends to ever play the game – all those guys you just look up to and kind of want to take little different pieces to add to your game. But at the end of the day, it’s your game. You’ve got to make it unique in your own way.