In the third round of the 2013 NFL draft, the New England Patriots went to Rutgers twice.
Cornerback Logan Ryan landed at No. 83 overall. Safety Duron Harmon followed at No. 91 overall. But the path that sent them to head coach Bill Belichick got some paving from a Scarlet Knight before them.
A former Patriots first-rounder in Devin McCourty.
Ryan explained during his appearance Sunday night on the Double Coverage Podcast with Devin and twin brother Jason McCourty.
“Here’s the crazy thing, Dev,” Ryan said. “Me and Du, seeing your process, you and [Jason], we looked up to you all so much, we finessed the Patriots. I called Dev after I saw his pro day. Me and Du were doing a pro-day workout in the weight room like two-a-days. You know me, I’m a worker. So, after we would lift in the summer, we would go back to the weight room at 6, 7 at night. We would do the pro-day workout all year. We were doing them drills all year. The Patriots held a private workout for all the Rutgers guys. They worked out like 15 players. Yeah, they picked like seven of us, but they had a private workout.
“I called Dev and I’m like, ‘Yo, what drills are ya’ll doing in ya’ll warm-up?’ I knew the Patriots’ warm-up drills, so me and Du were practicing these drills all week,” Ryan added. “And so when Bill comes, I’m like shirt off, eight-pack, catching the ball one-handed, sprinting back. I’m in great shape. I know all the drills. Like, ‘Oh, yeah, I know that drill.’ ‘You ever do it before?’ ‘No, I never did it.’ I do the drill with my eyes closed.”
New England would go on to select Rutgers linebacker Steve Beauharnais in the seventh round that spring. Cornerback Brandon Jones then signed as an undrafted rookie.
But the Piscataway roster from the fall of 2012 also included eventual Patriots arrivals in Mark Harrison and Tim Wright on offense to go with Scott Vallone, Kevin Snyder, Quentin Gause and Jeremy Deering on defense.
As for Ryan, now 29, the prep served its purpose.
“I was just working straight off what Dev would tell me,” he said. “‘Dev, what’s it like? What’s this? What’s this? What’s that? What do they like to see?’ And me and Du both get drafted in the third round. We go up there and the rest is history.”
Ryan appeared in every game across four seasons in Foxborough. Including playoffs, he logged 285 tackles, 3.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and 13 interceptions during his tenure.
“But we were working those drills for a year, man, and it paid off,” Ryan continued. “Coming out of Rutgers, it’s not easy, as you know. But we ended up leading the NFL in most players from a team drafted. We had seven Rutgers guys drafted that year, so we really put a lot of work in with that team. I argue it’s the best Rutgers team of all time – defense of all time.”
By draft’s close, linebacker Khaseem Greene had become a Chicago Bear, tight end D.C. Jefferson an Arizona Cardinal, running back Jawan Jamison a Washington Redskin and corner Marcus Cooper a San Francisco 49er.
“You really told us all the little cheats on how to become a Patriot, because we were doing those things nonstop,” Ryan said. “When Bill saw it, he must have been impressed, because he took about half of us from that workout.”
Ryan spent the past three campaigns with the Tennessee Titans before entering free agency. Harmon, taken eight slots later, was traded to the Detroit Lions in March after accruing 21 interceptions from regular season into postseason.