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Solder eager to join competition

Tackle’s athleticism appealed to Patriots

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By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / April 30, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH — In the hours after offensive tackle Nate Solder became a New England Patriot, he stopped planning.

At 6 a.m. yesterday, he was on a flight east and the Colorado native didn’t know what to expect.

So the Patriots’ first-round pick said he took a reactionary approach.

“They tell me to go here, I go there,’’ Solder said. “They tell me go there, you know. So, five minutes at a time. I’m not even sure what the schedule is at this point.’’

Life may not be much different for Solder when his rookie season officially begins.

Solder arrived at Gillette Stadium yesterday and was given quick introductions to Bill Belichick and the coaching staff. Patriots owner Robert Kraft and team president Jonathan Kraft walked Solder around the stadium and introduced him to the media.

As Solder walked the field, his 6-foot-8-inch, 319-pound frame was difficult to miss. In his first time visiting New England, Solder said the history of Gillette Stadium made an impact on him.

“I think Mr. Kraft was the one who pointed out the impressive record that they have here at this stadium, so that was the first thought to come to mind is they win a lot of games here. They do things right here,’’ Solder said.

Being part of that tradition is a goal for Solder. After redshirting his freshman season at Colorado, Solder spent one season as a tight end. He then took his coach’s advice and moved to left tackle, becoming the starter in his sophomore season.

He’s only played on the left side as a tackle. He was an All-American in his final season and was one of four captains.

“I’ve always been a guy who is about competition,’’ Solder said. “I think competition makes everyone better. I came here to compete for a position and that’s what I plan on doing.’’

Some questions were raised after Solder had only 21 reps of 225 pounds at the NFL scouting combine. The performance may have fallen below expectations, but Solder said he was not swayed by criticism.

“I’ve never really paid too much attention to analysts,’’ Solder said. “I’ve always felt that I’m a strong, powerful player, but I always have things to develop and get better at.’’

One thing that attracted the Patriots was his athleticism, Belichick said. Solder was a multisport athlete at Buena Vista High School in Colorado and almost played college basketball at Dartmouth.

“There are certainly a number of tackles who started off at tight end and kind of grew into the position,’’ Belichick said. “But you know, Nate was a three-sport athlete in high school, so you get some idea of his athletic ability there. And certainly when you watch him play, you watch him pull, you watch him run, you watch his athleticism, for a big guy, he moves well. He’s pretty light on his feet, and I think you see that all the way through.

“You saw it in high school, you saw it earlier in his career, but even though he’s put on the weight and gone from 280 or whatever it is three years ago to 315 or whatever the exact numbers are.

“It’s been a solid progression, but athletically he still handles himself pretty well for that weight.’’

Solder knows he has much to improve on, and he is most excited about getting the chance to prove himself.

“Kind of like coming out of high school, there are a lot of things that you are going to develop and get better at,’’ Solder said. “And I think I have a lot of things to get better at.

“The great thing about being here is there are such great coaches with Coach [Dante] Scarnecchia and Coach Belichick. And I look forward to the opportunity to get better.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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