INDIANAPOLIS — Ryan Mallett has not fielded many interview requests this week. The rookie quarterback from Arkansas has not played in a game for the Patriots this season and almost certainly will not play in the Super Bowl.
A third-round pick out of Arkansas, Mallett could one day be Tom Brady's successor. He's 6-foot-6, 238 pounds and has a terrific arm. The Patriots were surprised when Mallett fell into the third round and snapped him up when he did.
"This is a year for me to learn," Mallett said. "There's not much to say beyond that. I'm soaking in all the experience I can."
But Mallett was happy to talk to a reporter this morning when he was asked about Red Sox third base prospect Will Middlebrooks.
Mallett and Middlebrooks have been close friends for the last 11 years. Their fathers were football coaches and when Mallett moved to Hooks, Texas, in seventh grade, Middlebrooks soon became like a brother to him.
"I met him at a football camp and he was the only one there who could throw the ball like me," Mallett said. "He could really spin it. We started talking and ever since then, we hit it off. He's my boy."
Mallett played quarterback at Texas High in Hooks. Middlebrooks was the quarterback at Liberty-Eylau High, a smaller school.
According to Mallett, Middlebrooks had a bright future in football before he turned to baseball.
"He was a beast. He won a state championship, he was the All-State punter. He could throw and I always thought he could be a great receiver," Mallett said. "One of his teammates was [University of Oregon star] LaMichael James. He was big-time."
Middlebrooks turned down a scholarship to play football and baseball at Texas A&M after the Red Sox drafted him in 2007 and signed him to a $925,000 bonus.
"I would have kept playing baseball if I knew I could get that kind of money," Mallett said. "But Will deserved it. He's a great baseball player."
Middlebrooks hit .285 with 23 home runs and 94 RBIs in 116 minor league games last season. He then hit four home runs in 13 games in the Arizona Fall League before straining a ligament in his left hand while chasing a foul ball. He was shut down at that point but has remained in Arizona working out and preparing for spring training.
Baseball America ranks Middlebrooks as the organization's top prospect. The plan is for him to spend this season with Class AAA Pawtucket, but that could change depending on need.
"He's right there," said Mallett, who plans to go to Florida and see Middlebrooks in spring training. "It's exciting."
In a few years, Mallett could be the starting quarterback of the Patriots and Middlebrooks the starting third baseman of the Red Sox.
"The weirdest thing is we always used to talk about that," Mallett said. "We used to say, 'We'll be on the same team or maybe we'll live in the same city.' Now maybe it will happen. How weird is that? It would literally be a dream come true."