(Photos courtesy of New England Patriots)
Talk of Fame Network
Drew Bledsoe was the first pick of the 1993 draft, and he did not disappoint. He became the youngest quarterback to throw for 10,000 yards and, within four seasons of joining the New England Patriots, had them in the Super Bowl.
So he knows what first-round draft choice Jameis Winston is up against. Like Winston, Bledsoe was one of two quarterbacks taken with the first two picks of his draft. Like Winston, he played the game’s most important position. And, like Winston, he went to a franchise in desperate need of help.
So we asked Bledsoe on the latest Talk of Fame radio broadcast what he’d tell Winston and Marcus Mariota, the second choice of last week’s draft, to help them navigate the future.
“Number one,” he said, “surround yourself with good people. It’s important to pick the right agent, the right financial guy and the right small group of advisors to help you handle all the other stuff that’s not football related. You really want to try to eliminate as much as you can in that rookie year in terms of distractions off the field.
“The other thing I would tell any of these guys that are coming in -- at least for your first year, but probably for your first two or three – (is to) put your head down and do the work. Don’t worry about being a media personality. Don’t take on a bunch of commercials. There are some simple things you can do to put some money in your pocket. (So) try to keep it simple. Try to make it just about the football, at least for the first couple of years … until you really have your feet on the ground. Once you do that then you can expand a little bit, particularly in the offseason.
“But early, for multiple reasons -- one of which is being focus, the other of which is resentment, particularly on your own team – you don’t want to be a guy who’s immediately the big star until your teammates feel like you’ve actually earned the right to be that guy. Just being the No. 1 draft pick doesn’t make you a team leader. You have to earn the right to be a team leader and be a guy who’s respected on your team.”
Bledsoe was respected on his team and throughout the league. He was a four-time Pro Bowl quarterback and Super Bowl champion (albeit as a backup), and he might have finished his career in New England had he not suffered a near-fatal injury early in the 2001 season. He was replaced by his backup, Tom Brady, and the rest you know.
What you might not know, however, is how difficult it is to be the first pick of any draft – something Jameis Winston will discover soon enough. Bledsoe, who grew up in Walla, Walla, Wash., learned the hard way in New England … and he not only survived; he flourished.
“Growing up in the west … we like our sports and cheer for our teams,” he said. “It’s not a religion like it is in Boston. That was a bit of an eye opener. (But) if you’re going to play the position of quarterback, you have to embrace all of that stuff. If you don’t like it … if you don’t appreciate being on the hot seat all the time … then it’s not the right job for you.”