Pats' northern element

Canadian offensive lineman Nick Kaczur is learning on the job as a rookie with the New England...

Canadian offensive lineman Nick Kaczur is learning on the job as a rookie with the New England Patriots this season. (File Photo)

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:59 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- If he hadn't listened to some encouraging motherly advice, Nick Kaczur still could be wearing a hard hat on the job rather than a football helmet.

Because he did, the 26-year-old Brantford native is doing his heavy lifting in the trenches of the NFL as an offensive lineman for the New England Patriots.

A third-round pick by the defending Super Bowl champs, Kaczur was thrown into the fire in the Patriots' 23-20 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

Subbing for injured veteran Todd Light at left tackle, he helped protect quarterback Tom Brady in as dramatic and entertaining a fourth quarter as you are going to see.

With word out of New England yesterday that Light suffered a broken leg, Kaczur conceivably could be the starter for the remainder of the season.

"I wasn't expecting anything -- I just wanted to come in here and make the team," Kaczur said after the game Sunday.

"Wherever it went and goes from there, that's where it goes. I'm definitely surprised and ecstatic so far."

So far, so good for the 6-foot-4, 319 pounder who played college ball at Toledo. But that almost didn't happen, either. Kaczur took a couple years off after high school to work at a construction job while upgrading his marks.

Having her son around helped Janet Kaczur, a single mom, pay the bills. But she also was there to push Nick in his schoolwork so he could continue his football career.

Now he has a starting job in the NFL, a home he just bought in Attleboro, Mass., and the growing respect of the veteran teammates he works alongside.

"Nick has been real impressive since he came here," right tackle Tom Ashworth said. "It's hard for an offensive lineman to come in as a rookie and pick it up. He's done an awesome job learning the system and adapting to the speed.

"He's a great, laid-back kid with a good perspective."

Ashworth says his teammates have given the rookie the requisite ribbing for being Canadian, which is fine with

Kaczur. He's a big boy and proud of proving that he can make it in the world's most elite league as a rookie.

"I've followed guys like (Oakville kicker Mike Vanderjagt) and other Canadians who have made it and I'm just glad to be another guy able to do it," Kaczur said.

"Some people say we can't play this game. Personally I feel there are lots of guys in Canada who can."

Though he struggled at times under the fire of the Blitzburgh defence, Kaczur settled down by the time the game was on the line in the fourth quarter. With the line digging in and Brady at his best, the quarterback completed all 12 of his passes in the final period.

Kaczur had the best seat in the house and saw Brady's poise in and out of the huddle.

"He always keeps your head up," said Kaczur, a first-round pick of the Argos. "He's always saying 'we can do this a littler better, we need a little more time here.' "

Most teams wouldn't expect a third-round tackle to have an immediate impact. But most teams aren't the Patriots. Coach Bill Belichick made it clear that each week he dresses 45 players because he expects them to be ready to play. Kaczur found that out in a hurry as he has seen action in all three Patriots games.

"Nick has done a good job for us," Belichick said. "He's a tough guy. Given all that we've thrown at him as a rookie, I think he has done a pretty good job of absorbing it."


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