ATLANTA - James Develin might be the unknown player who has the biggest influence on the game that even Pats fans might have forgotten about.
Given that the Rams are thin at linebacker, Develin, a fullback, will likely be used to lead the way for Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead as the Pats attempt to overpower the Los Angeles Rams at the second level of their defense. Develin is a quiet player who does his job - call him the perfect Pats player. Early in his career, Bill Belichick learned offensive line/blitz pick-up play from Tom Bresnahan who he coached with at the New York Giants in the 1980s. That gives Belichick a special appreciation for Develin (a defensive player in college) because he provides Belichick with another strong blocker in both the running and passing game.
"James epitomizes hard work, diligence, physical and mental toughness - determination - how all that can result in success. He's done that. He spent a year on the practice squad with the Bengals. He spent a year on our practice squad. He was a defensive player - trying to play offense who finally found a home at fullback. He has a role that is important and a lot of guys have roles. It is not always the guy who scores the touchdown. It's about everyone doing their part. James is very dependable in his assignments - his toughness, his durability, and doing other things when he needs to. Whether it is catching, running or covering kicks," Belichick said.
"I think he as much respect as anyone in the locker room. He doesn't say a lot - works as hard as anybody. He is a very team-oriented guy that does what is best for the team. He is so respected. I would say admired. He is a great example for every player and coach in the locker room," Belichick said. "He has great attitude, works hard and does whatever he can to help the team."
Tom Brady loves Develin too.
"We count on him in the biggest moments," Brady said. "Short yardage, goal-line situations - we give him the ball. Obviously, we throw him the ball like we did in the AFC Championship Game. He's a very versatile weapon for us. He's the ultimate teammate. I love having him in there. He was selected to the Pro Bowl last year. He's a great husband and great father - someone we all look up to."