Weekend to remember

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:35 AM ET

The revelry in the background was the giveaway -- there was quite a party going on yesterday in Brantford.

And why wouldn't there be? As Nick Kaczur tried to talk over the din, the reality of being the newest member of the New England Patriots was sinking in.

"I'm just excited to be a part of it," Kaczur said as his hometown friends were whooping it up behind him. "This is something I've been waiting for a long time. Now I have to seize the opportunity."

Getting his shot with the Super Bowl champions is remarkable on a number of levels for Kaczur, who was selected in the third round of the NFL draft late Saturday night.

For the big offensive lineman and Windsor native O.J. Atogwe, a safety who was selected by the St. Louis Rams earlier in the third round, a big payday awaits.

It should start with a six-figure signing bonus that will be parlayed into another $300,000 US or so should they stick after training camp.

All told, it has been quite a jump for Kaczur, who might have been working in construction this week if it weren't for some persistent encouragement from his mother five years ago. After taking two years off after high school, she encouraged her son to take one final shot at football.

The University of Toledo was willing to give him a shot and four years later he's the property of the Super Bowl champions.

At age 26, Kaczur is hardly a wet-behind-the-ears college grad, which made him all the more attractive in the eyes of Patriots coach Bill Belichick. In fact, he's already the second-oldest offensive lineman on the New England roster.

"He is obviously a little bit more mature, he got a little bit of a late start in his career," Belichick told reporters in New England after Kaczur was the 100th selection overall. "I don't think that is a big deterrent.

"We feel he has some position flexibility. He is a smart guy, a tough guy and he's a good mover."

Brains and brawn are the two required elements for a Belichick player. In winning three Super Bowls in the past four years, the Patriots have built a roster with unheralded players strong on character and light on ego.

To take care of the brawn component, Kaczur was a man on a mission after the Rockets season ended in December. He went on a diet which expanded him from 302 pounds to 319, adding mostly muscle to his 6-foot-4 frame.

"I felt it was all good weight," Kaczur said. "It was just something that had to be done to play at the next level."

Though Kaczur didn't know he was going to get picked by the Patriots until around 11 p.m. Saturday night, he knew the team had some interest. Twice staff was sent to Toledo to work him out. They were impressed with his size, his ability to play both guard and tackle and his no-nonsense attitude.

"I got positive feedback on both because I am always a hard-working guy," Kaczur said. "I do what I do and I go 100%. I think they saw that and that is why they picked me."

More specifically, the Pats picked him because they see him as a hedge on their big investment. His prime task now will be to protect quarterback Tom Brady.

In college, Kaczur was the anchor of an offensive line that allowed just 19 quarterback sacks in 2004. Belichick's research showed that linemen from the Mid-American Conference, have done well in the NFL.

After months of preparing for his big moment, Kaczur was keen to let loose with his pals yesterday.

"It was long and boring," Kaczur said of waiting for his name to be called. "But it was made worthwhile in the end."


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