BOSTON (CBS) — Last Monday was a life-changing day for Jonnu Smith.

The 25-year-old was a free agent for the first time in his professional career. Coming off the best season of his four-year NFL career, Smith was set to rake in some serious money on the open market. And he didn’t have to wait long to get it.

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Less than an hour after the legal tampering window opened, news broke that Smith and the Patriots had agreed on a four-year deal worth up to $50 million, with more than $31 million guaranteed.

A little more than a week later, Smith met the New England media and was asked to reflect back on that moment. He said he had to limit himself a bit in describing that day, so that he didn’t start crying.

“Just around a tight-knit family. I consider myself a spiritual man so I just dug deeper and kind of connected with the man upstairs, and it kind of just led me to my decision,” Smith said. “It was one of the greatest days of my life, one of the most exciting days of my life. Just to be able to start a new chapter, fresh start, a new journey, I’m ecstatic.”

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Smith added: “You kind of got me going back to that day. I cried all I could. I don’t want to start tearing up on this interview again.”

Of course, Smith was not the only free-agent investment made by the team, as they followed up the Smith deal by adding a number of high-priced players on both sides of the ball. When Smith signed his deal, he obviously didn’t know what the Patriots’ overall plans were. But he was quite happy to see it all come together.

“I didn’t [know]. I don’t work upstairs, you know what I mean?”  Smith said. “But just knowing the type of coaches and people that are within this organization, every dime was well spent. So I’m just looking forward to starting it off with the guys, continuing to build on this historical franchise.”

Smith hit the radar of many Patriots fans when Bill Belichick praised him as “probably the best in the league” in terms of running with the ball after the catch among tight ends. Smith said he had to take note of that comment, which is something he doesn’t typically do.

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“I did. As a player, I take everything with a grain of salt. I don’t look too deep into things, good or bad, because at the end of the day, I’ve gotta go out on the field and perform at a certain level. And that’s all that matters,” Smith said. “Coming from him, of course, man, you kind of maybe can’t take that one with a grain of salt. But it’s definitely a pleasure coming from him.”

CBSBoston.com Staff