Last Thursday’s game against the Washington Football Team was not the just the first opportunity to see the 2021 New England Patriots in action, it also was the official in-game debut for the team’s rookie class. The group made sure to make its presence felt.
Quarterback Mac Jones saw prominent snaps, while Quinn Nordin was the featured place kicker. Former Oklahoma teammates Ronnie Perkins and Rhamondre Stevenson, meanwhile, were among the standout performers during the Patriots’ 22-13 victory.
While Perkins had a combined six tackles between his 56 combined snaps on defense and special teams, Stevenson finished the game with 127 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns on just 10 carries. Yes, it was an exhibition game, but they both showed in flashes why the Patriots opted to invest mid-round draft picks in them earlier this offseason.
The biggest play made by the two was undoubtably Stevenson’s game-icing 91-yard scamper in the fourth quarter. During a press conference call a few days after the game, his former teammate shared the thoughts he had during the play.
“Honestly, I was just like, ‘He better not get caught,’” Perkins told reporters.
“That was pretty much by biggest thing while he was going: ‘You better not get caught. You better not get caught.’ Because if he got caught he probably would have never heard the end of it from me.”
Perkins and Stevenson spent two seasons at Oklahoma together before getting drafted by the Patriots in the third and fourth rounds, respectively, of this year’s draft. They were among the core contributors for the Sooners in both 2019 and 2020, but also were forced to miss time in both years due to a season-spanning six-game suspension.
When they returned midway through their 2020 campaigns, the two helped establish themselves as team leaders and draft hopefuls. Perkins eventually came to New England as the 96th overall selection this year, with Stevenson joining him 24 picks later.
“It was just a surreal moment for both of us to come play both our first NFL game, make some good plays. It just really felt like a proud brother moment, just to see your brother going out there also doing his thing,” Perkins said.
“We’ve been through a lot together. Just to see him have success is pretty much equivalent to one of my blood siblings having success. I could go on for days about me and him. But watching him be successful and do his thing is one of the best feelings that I can have as a football player, just knowing where we come from, what we’ve been through.”
Given their draft status both Perkins and Stevenson are essentially locks to make the Patriots’ roster. And if their preseason debut is a sign of things to come, they might be able to add more chapters to their story together this year.