It was quite a different setting than Cole Strange is used to. Spending his six-year college career at UT-Chattanooga, he played his home games in 20,000-seat Finley Stadium. Now, he needs to adapt to taking the field in front of 65,000 fans at Gillette Stadium.
Strange received his first impression of the New England Patriots’ home arena on Friday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the team had made him a surprise first-round draft pick. Taking the field accompanied by team owners Robert and Jonathan Kraft, Strange was officially introduced to the New England media.
His first ever trip to the area is a busy one, but it appears the 23-year-old has gotten a positive first impression.
“It’s a dream come true, honestly,” he said about joining the Patriots. “I don’t really know what to say other than that. I’m so happy to be here. I love it here already. Only been here a few hours, I love it.”
New England invested the 29th overall selection in last night’s draft in Strange, making him the highest ever pick out of Chattanooga. Needless to say that the offensive lineman, who was regarded as a Day 2 selection by most analysts, was fired up when he received the call from the Patriots that they would bring him in.
“I was ecstatic,” he said. “I was with my dad, we were fired up. We both started hootin’ and hollerin’. It’s a dream come true. We were freaking out.”
Now a Patriot, Strange has some catching-up to do to meet his new coaches and teammates. Among the latter group is the last person to take the Gillette Stadium stage alongside the Krafts: 2021 first-round draft pick Mac Jones, New England’s starting quarterback.
The two have already texted each other, and according to Strange will head out to dinner on Friday night. Moving forward, both Jones and his newest blocker will play an integral role in the Patriots’ offensive lineup — something Robert Kraft is apparently looking forward to as well.
“I know a lot of people sometimes question when we take an offensive lineman in the first round. The last time we did it was ‘05 with Logan Mankins, and that turned out pretty well,” Kraft said. “We think we’re privileged now to have a great young quarterback. We just solidified the middle with Cole Strange here.”
Like Mankins before him, Strange is expected to line up at left guard for the Patriots.