FOXBOROUGH — Former Missouri receiver T.J.Moe isn’t very big (about 6 feet, 200 pounds). He’s strong and he’s white. He is called “tough” and “gritty” by scouts and wasn’t drafted.
So naturally he’s compared with Wes Welker.
“It’s an honor to get compared to a great player,” said Moe, who was signed by the Patriots last week. “I’m not worried about that, I’m worried about trying to make the Patriots roster and trying to do everything they ask me to do, so from start to finish here we’ll be listening . . . I’ll let the comparisons [be] left to you guys.”
Moe was invited to the NFL scouting combine; Welker was not when he came out of Texas Tech. While Moe’s 40 time wasn’t impressive (4.74 seconds), he was a top performer at his position in bench press (26 reps of 225 pounds) and the three-cone drill (6.53 seconds), an agility test the Patriots weigh more than other combine events.
A St. Louis area native, Moe grew up a Rams and Cardinals fan, though he said if he sticks around he’ll start following the Red Sox, too. He met Danny Amendola last year at Rams training camp and is eager to get pointers from his new teammate.
The Patriots have a good record of keeping undrafted rookies.
“To them, I don’t know how much it matters that you’re first-, second-, third-rounder as much as it does you show up and produce,” he said. “I don’t think they worry about money, they’re worried about production.”
Moe’s goal is to show the Patriots staff “that I care, that I’m into it more than anybody else here. So pick up the playbook that they’re throwing at you in spurts here, but you pick it up as fast as you can and show them that you care about football more than anything else.”
So about that Rams-Patriots Super Bowl?
“I don’t want to talk about that,” Moe said with a laugh.
Vega gets ahead
Brockton native and former Northeastern standout Jason Vega has been at the Patriots’ facility for a couple of weeks already. Since he signed as a free agent after his Canadian Football League contract ended, he was able to join the team at the start of the offseason workout program.
At 25, he is the oldest rookie on the roster, having spent two seasons in the CFL.
“I guess the way I look at it is that I really don’t have any regrets in terms of where I’ve been and the things that I’ve done because I’ve always tried to appreciate it for what it is and know that it’s just another step in the direction I want to go in,” Vega said.
He has gotten a headstart on learning the playbook and has met with coaches.
“I’ve been here since the beginning of April so I’ve been able to get in with [defensive line] coach [Patrick] Graham and [defensive coordinator Matt] Patricia a little bit, when we could of course, to go over the defenses and all that stuff. Now it’s just a little bit more intense.”
The Patriots signed two undrafted rookies out of Penn State — cornerback Stephon Morris and center Matt Stankiewitch. They played last season under former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.
Morris said it’s easy to see some of Bill Belichick’s influence on O’Brien, and O’Brien passed on some valuable advice on how best to get along in Foxborough: “He told me to keep my nose clean, work hard, and stay off social networking.”
Listed at 5-8, 186 pounds, Morris played in 49 games with 24 starts at Penn State, finishing with 148 tackles, 8½ tackles for a loss, 13 passes defensed, and 1 interception.
He was asked how O’Brien changed the culture of the Penn State program that was reeling after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Morris, a little flustered, said, “To be honest, I’m really not supposed to answer questions like that, but that’s in the past.”
Though he grew up in Washington D.C., Morris said he was a Patriots fan as a kid, during Tedy Bruschi’s heyday.
“I’ve wanted to be a Patriot for a long time. This is a dream come true,” he said. “Hopefully I can impress the coaches and it will still be a dream come true.”
Brothers in line
Chris McDonald, the younger brother of Patriots offensive lineman Nick McDonald, was signed as an undrafted rookie out of Michigan State.
Chris, also an offensive lineman, knows that it is on him to make it hard for the Patriots to let him go.
“My brother being in the NFL is not going to help me stay in the NFL,” he said.
Both brothers went undrafted. Nick latched on with the Packers for a season before coming to New England. Now it’s Chris’s turn.
“It’s not just Nick, there are a lot of guys here who were free agents,” Chris said. “I think [Nick] was excited, but I was more excited to be part of an NFL team.”
Tight end Zach Sudfeld, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Nevada-Reno, is 6-7, 252 pounds. His twin brother Matt is 6-0 and 185 pounds and played receiver at Brown.
“People say he got the looks and the brains, and I got the size,” said Zach.
Sudfeld’s first five seasons with the Wolf Pack were forgettable as he had more surgeries (six) than receptions (two). But the NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility and he made the most of it. Last fall he had 45 catches for 598 yards and eight touchdowns. He also earned both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree.