FOXBOROUGH — His predraft report may claim that guard Jon Halapio has less-than-ideal lateral quickness or stiffness in his hips, but it’s clear there’s one thing that can’t be questioned when it comes to the former Florida starter: his toughness.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 323-pound lineman played much of his final season for the Gators with a torn pectoral muscle, and against Tennessee last September, he was gouged in the eye so badly that he required stitches to stem the bleeding.
But he got stitched up after the game, finishing the contest despite being unable to see out of his left eye. Halapio also played through a torn hamstring as well as chronic knee and back pain during his time at Florida.
On Tuesday, as the Patriots made several of their newest players available to reporters, the sixth-round pick shrugged off his ability to play through pain, even in a sport that nearly demands it.
“Love of the game,” he said. “I love playing football. My mentality is to play until I can’t play anymore.”
Bill Belichick had said Saturday that he was surprised Halapio was still available when the Patriots selected him 179th overall.
Halapio, too, didn’t expect to wait quite so long to get a phone call from a team, but said he’ll be motivated by the wait.
“Everybody believed I slipped because of my injuries, and everybody said the same thing: They were surprised I was still on the board,” he said. “But I’m past all that. I’m glad I’m here. This is the right fit for me and I’m excited to go to work.”
Though he grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla., Halapio is of Tongan descent. He played in 51 career games for the Gators, with 43 starts, and was voted a team captain his senior year.
He said his torn pec is now 100 percent.