It was early August, 2011, and I was sitting in a seat at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Tom Brady was warming up about four yards in front of me, but I wasn't here to see him. I was looking for the rookies. It was the best view I'd get of them before the season started.
They hold precious few of these public practices in the actual stadium, so I try to attend every one. Practices are free, and Gillette Stadium offers a children's play area on training-camp days. So there were plenty of families there that morning, with kids hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite players. (My kids were at summer camp, though, so I was enjoying this particular practice alone).
The Patriots were working on their running game that day, and the ball was being handed off to one of the rookies with regularity. I took some notes. When practice was over, I picked up my kids, went home, and did some research. I knew the Patriots had drafted this guy in the third round, and that he had played for LSU, but that was about it. I said to my husband that night, "This rookie the Pats picked up, Ridley, he's got something special."