Arrington returns home

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Arrington returns home

FOXBORO -- When the Patriots take to FedEx Field, Kyle Arrington will have a chance to show his hometown just how far he has come.

Born in Accokeek, Maryland, Arrington attended Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, just a 30-minute drive from the Redskins' home stadium. He'll have 20 or more family members in the crowd on Sunday as the Pats and 'Skins square off.

Others in the stands may remember Arrington as the 150-pound high school junior who separated his shoulder twice trying to make big hits that his body couldn't withstand. Or maybe they'll remember him as the lightly-recruited senior who didn't know how to get into a proper corner back stance or backpedal in the correct manner. Maybe to them he's a kid who got lucky. With just one year of high school varsity football under his belt, Division 1-AA Hofstra took a chance on Arrington and gave him a scholarship to play college football in upstate New York.

Seven years later and 40 pounds heavier, Arrington has made a complete transformation. He's a starting corner on one of the best teams in the NFL and his seven interceptions lead the league. For those who watched him get beat up as a scrawny Gwynn Park defensive back, Arrington's first game as a pro in Washington, DC is cause for celebration.

"When Kyle wants to do something and puts his mind to it, he can do anything he wants to," said Gwynn Park coach Danny Haley. "We're very excited for him. It makes us proud to see him."

Arrington's last month has been a bit of a stroll down memory lane. In Week 12, the Patriots took on the Eagles, Arrington's first NFL team. He joined Philadelphia in 2008 as an undrafted free agent, but didn't last long. He did what he could to stick around -- he studied and tried to sleep while his friends DeSean Jackson and Quintin Demps played video games in his room -- but he got cut from the Eagles practice squad soon after training camp ended.

"I guess coming from a D1-AA, it was a little bit bigger pond," Arrington said before facing the Eagles this season. "Just a tad bit bigger. It was a little adjustment period."

Now that he's with the Patriots, the adjustment period is behind him. Arrington has become one of the rocks of a Patriots secondary that seems to change every week. With Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty going down with injuries at different points in the season, the 25-year-old Arrington has been a stabilizing presence in the Patriots' defensive backfield.

The Patriots have been statistically the worst pass defense in the NFL, but Arrington has been a pleasant surprise. He appeared in all 16 regular season games last season and made 71 tackles, but he had just one career pick before this season.

Despite the increased media attention he's received and the number of Facebook messages from old friends he's found in his inbox, he's not taking time to sit back and think about his unlikely journey.

"As far as reflecting on everything, I really haven't had time to," Arrington said. "I'm trying to stay focused. We have a long way to go as far as where we want to be as a team so when it's all said and done, and we're where we wanna be, then I'll reflect."

Arrington's drive is something he's had since his days at Gwynn Park. He wasn't always focused on football -- a score-first point guard, he fancied himself as more of a basketball player -- but he did want to make himself into the best athlete he could be. As a result, he began to spend hours upon hours in the weight room.

Even when he's back in Maryland visiting family, he'll return to his old gym at the YMCA in Fort Washington to work out.

"He eats weights. He sleeps weights," said Haley. "He hasn't forgotten. He knows exactly what he has to do and how he'll do it. He'll always out-work the guy who's going against him. He has that mindset that he was taught in high school."

Haley remembers how Arrington made himself into an All-County cornerback in Prince George's County and took Gwynn Park to within one game of the state finals in his senior year. He was a quiet kid with great athletic ability.

And though now he's looking like a Pro Bowl player, Haley says Arrington is the same guy.

During the Patriots' bye week, Arrington returned to Gwynn Park to speak to visit his old teachers and speak to their students.

"He was just being Kyle," Haley said. "Down to earth. Very mild-mannered. Very respectful. Nothing's changed."

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski is a model citizen in the NFL. In fact, the NFL Players Association is advising rookies to be more like Gronk, according to The Boston Globe

The New England Patriots tight end has developed a name for himself on and off the football field. With that attention comes branding. And at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere from May 18 to 20, the NFLPA encouraged rookies to develop their own brand -- much like Gronkowski.

“Some people think he’s just this extension of a frat boy, and that it’s sort of accidental,” Ahmad Nassar said, via The Globe. Nassar is the president of NFL Players Inc., the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA. “And that’s wrong. It’s not accidental, it’s very purposeful. So the message there is, really good branding is where you don’t even feel it. You think, ‘Oh, that’s just Gronk being Gronk.’ Actually, that’s his brand, but it’s so good and so ingrained and so authentic, you don’t even know it’s a brand or think it.”

Gronkowski's "Summer of Gronk" has indirectly become one of his streams of income. The tight end makes appearances for magazines and sponsors. Because of his earnings from branding and endorsements, he didn't touch his NFL salary during the early years of his career.

Gronk was one of three players who were the topics of discussion during the symposium. Dak Prescott and Odell Beckham were also used as examples of players who have been able to generate additional income from endorsements. Beckham, in particular, has been in the spotlight off the football field. He's appeared on the cover of Madden, and just signed a deal with NIke which is reportedly worth $25 million over five years with upwards of $48 million over eight years. His deal, which is a record for an NFL player, will pay him more than his contract with the Giants.

“A lot of people talk to the players about, ‘You should be careful with your money and you should treat your family this way and you should treat your girlfriend or your wife.’ Which is fine. I think that’s valuable,” Nassar said, via The Globe. “But we don’t often give them a chance to answer the question: How do you see yourself as a brand? Because Gronk, Odell, none of those guys accidentally ended up where they are from a branding and marketing standpoint.”

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL


Tom Brady delivered a video message last week at the funeral of Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, a Maine native and former UConn track athlete killed in Somalia on May 5.

Bill Speros of The Boston Herald, in a column this Memorial Day weekend, wrote about Milliken and Brady's message.   

Milliken ran track at Cheverus High School in Falmouth, Maine, and at UConn, where he graduated in 2001. Milliken lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Erin, and two children.  He other Navy SEALs participated in a training exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011 where he met and posed for pictures with Brady.

Speros wrote that at Milliken’s funeral in Virginia Beach, Va., Brady's video offered condolences and thanked Milliken’s family for its sacrifice and spoke of how Milliken was considered a “glue guy” by UConn track coach Greg Roy.

Milliken had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning four Bronze Star Medals and was based in Virginia since 2004.  He was killed in a nighttime firefight with Al-Shabaab militants near Barij, about 40 miles from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. He was 38.

The Pentagon said Milliken was the first American serviceman killed in combat in Somalia since the "Black Hawk Down" battle that killed 18 Americans in 1993. 

In a statement to the Herald, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said: “It was an honor to host Kyle and his team for an exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011. It gave new meaning to the stadium being known as home of the Patriots. We were deeply saddened to hear of Kyle’s death earlier this month.

“As Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by patriots like Kyle and so many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect our rights as Americans. Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt appreciation are extended to the Milliken family and the many families who will be remembering lives lost this Memorial Day weekend.”