The Patriots selected 21-year-old linebacker Josh Uche out of Michigan with the 60th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft Friday night.
The team traded with the Baltimore Ravens in order to move up the board and nab Uche, New England’s second selection of the evening. The Patriots needed to fill a void at linebacker, with Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy both departing in free agency.
The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Uche is already a bit familiar with New England’s defense, both from his film study and his video game experience.
“I was playing with the Patriots on Madden for the last couple weeks,” he revealed during a conference call shortly after the selection was announced.
Uche said he didn’t have a formal interview with the Patriots at the NFL Scouting Combine, but he spoke with coaching assistant Brian Belichick as well as linebackers coach Jerod Mayo throughout the draft process. There was a lull in communication, but once he got the call notifying him the Patriots had drafted him, he said he knew the team would be the “perfect fit” because of his versatility and work ethic.
“I feel like the Patriots are going to maximize everything I have to offer,” he said. “It’s a good fit for me because I’m a hard-ass worker, and the Patriots work their asses off.”
Uche played four seasons of college football at Michigan, where he was teammates with Patriots defensive end Chase Winovich for three years.
“That was my boy,” he said.
Uche’s freshman season was thwarted by injury, as he suffered a torn meniscus and only appeared in four games. His sophomore season was also limited, as he sustained a stress fracture in his foot during fall camp. Over the course of his first two seasons, Uche logged a total of six tackles.
“When things got hard, of course the thoughts of transferring and giving up started to creep in,” he said. “I just continued to fight and claw for an opportunity. When my opportunity came, I made sure I was ready and I made sure I executed it — and I made sure I kept making plays, so I could keep getting more chances.”
Uche played in 12 games as a junior, recording 15 tackles — eight of which were for a loss — and seven sacks. As a senior, he played in all 13 of Michigan’s games and was named the team’s defensive player of the year. That year, he notched 35 tackles — 11.5 of which were for a loss — and also led the team in sacks with 7.5.
Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio also noted Uche’s ability to play on special teams, a skill he said the Patriots “put a premium” on. Caserio said he expects both Uche and fellow rookie linebacker Anfernee Jennings to compete for a role in the kicking game.
A Florida native, Uche graduated from Christopher Columbus High School. His football coach there was Chris Merritt, who now coaches Bryant’s football team in Rhode Island.