FOXBOROUGH – Growing up in Mississippi, Jamie Collins had a rather generalized view of the people in New England.
As Patriots owner Robert Kraft tells it, “Coming from Southern Mississippi, he said, ‘I know those people up in New England are bankers.’ ”
On Thursday at Gillette Stadium, the big defensive end donned what Kraft deemed “his best banker’s suit” and was presented with a No. 1 Patriots jersey as the team’s first pick in the NFL draft.
“It’s our pleasure to introduce Jamie Collins,” Kraft said. “We want to welcome him to New England and we’re excited to start off the season.”
Last Thursday, the Patriots traded their first-round pick (29th overall) to the Minnesota Vikings for four later picks, one of which was the 52d overall pick (the 20th in the second round), which they used on Collins.
“For us, this was a nondescript draft class,” Kraft said. “There were no big names, no big schools, no career records. But we hope it parallels a couple past successful drafts, where we had two tight ends in 2010 [Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez], and in 2011 we had two halfbacks with [Stevan] Ridley and [Shane] Vereen.
“It’s a pretty exciting time for us because doing this today really means the start of the new season.”
Kraft said the Patriots were particularly drawn to Collins because of his mental toughness and character.
“Here’s a young man who lost both his parents by the time he was 6,” Kraft said of the 23-year-old Collins. “He’s just a very wonderful and charming young man to talk to.
“He’s had a certain resiliency a lot of young people don’t have and see, and I think he’s really appreciative of the opportunity he has to be here.”
Just a year ago, another defensive end, Chandler Jones, was standing where Collins stood. The Patriots selected the 6-5 Jones out of Syracuse with the 21st overall pick.
Jones, who had 45 tackles and six sacks in his rookie campaign, is excited to work with Collins.
“I just met Jamie two seconds ago and said, ‘Good luck.’ He’s a cool guy,” Jones said. “Every question that he has, or whatever difficulty I had, I’m going to definitely share it with him.
“After we picked him, I looked him up on YouTube, and he looks like a very phenomenal player. I’m excited to be out here with him and we’ll see him in August.”
Jones said his advice to Collins will be to maintain consistency.
“That’s one thing I had to adapt to coming from college,” Jones said. “There’ll be times when you have a good day at practice, and you’ll be blah the next day.
“So just being consistent, coming out and doing your job every time, just to prove to those coaches that you can play in the NFL, so put me on the field.”
Jones is looking forward to working with Collins and is eager to get back on the field after last season’s 28-13 loss in the AFC Championship game to the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
“I’m getting excited,” Jones said. “There really isn’t an offseason.
“Even though you try to unplug from the game and get your mind off of it, you’re always thinking about what you could’ve done that play or that game.
“Physically, there’s definitely a resting factor but mentally, you’re always thinking about football.”
Collins, who will be made available to the media Friday with the rest of the draft picks, got started Thursday at the Patriots rookie-camp, which runs through the weekend. According to Kraft, he will have his work cut out for him, with many starters returning.
“Of course, everyone thinks they had a great draft and improved their team,” said Kraft. “None of us know for a few years.
“But when you think about our team, I think we have more returning starters – 22 of our 24 starters are returning — It’s going to be tough for young people to make this team.
“So I think there will be good spirit, good competition, and it’s such a fun time.”