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Undrafted rookie Cre’von LeBlanc is making a run at it

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Cre'von LeBlanc, who was signed by the Patriots May 6, had a highlight interception in last Thursday’s preseason game.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

FOXBOROUGH — Patriots cornerback Cre'von LeBlanc made the play of the night in the third quarter of last Thursday's preseason opener against the Saints, intercepting a Luke McCown pass in the end zone with just one arm to preserve New England's 1-point lead.

Not bad for an undrafted rookie who ran a 4.65-second 40-yard dash at this year's combine.

"It kind of was thrown in a perfect spot, I played low-shoulder on it," LeBlanc said, describing the pick after Tuesday's joint practice with Chicago. "And it kind of found me and I found it. It was like love at first sight."


After the 22-year-old out of Florida Atlantic University was passed up at the draft, the 5-foot-11-inch, 190-pound LeBlanc was signed by the Patriots on May 6.

Coach Bill Belichick said LeBlanc, like Malcolm Butler, likely went undrafted, at least in part, because of his underwhelming "measurables" at the combine. But like Butler, LeBlanc has plenty of immeasurable traits that make him a valuable defensive back.

"Obviously, the play he had against the Saints was a pretty special play, but day in and day out he's been pretty consistent for us going all the way back to the spring," Belichick said. "I'd say his instinctiveness, his ability to be around the ball, his anticipation and ability to recognize routes maybe offset some of the testing numbers that aren't elite."

In four years at Florida Atlantic, LeBlanc logged 133 solo tackles and assisted on 47. He reeled in six interceptions for 103 yards and recorded 23 defended passes. The Florida native was a team captain his senior year and was named the team's defensive MVP for the 2015 season.

"He played at a good level of competition against some good teams, not all top teams, but [Florida Atlantic] played Miami and Florida and a couple of teams like that, teams that were good," Belichick said. "The guys on the other side of the ball were fast now, it's not like they were playing opponents that had players that can't run. I think what you saw in film and what you saw in workout numbers, I don't know that it quite matches up."


LeBlanc said he "didn't really stress" about his 40-yard dash time, although he was frustrated because he had clocked high 4.4s and low 4.5s in the past.

"I can't run by myself," LeBlanc said. "I mean, I knew it was going to come down to it eventually, I wasn't born with a lot of speed. But I'm a competitor and I want to compete at a high level and I'm going to challenge the person across from me, so no matter who it is, I'm going to try to match their type of speed and challenge them to the best of my ability.

"Dealing with this game, it's all about mental and physical toughness. One thing they can't measure is how big your heart is and the heart that you have in you, which is that kind of like 'beast mode.' "

LeBlanc is one of nine cornerbacks vying for a roster spot. His competition includes Butler and Logan Ryan, offseason acquisition and seven-year veteran E.J. Biggers, second-year players Darryl Roberts and Justin Coleman, and fellow rookies Jonathan Jones and V'Angelo Bentley.

"It's a very competitive room," LeBlanc said. "You know we all come out here and put the work in, we all take advantage of every opportunity that's given to us, and for me — no disrespect to anybody else — but all I can focus on is just me and what I have to do.


"You can only control what you can control. You don't want to spend your time worrying about spots and counting numbers and things like that."

Despite the similarities he shares with Butler, LeBlanc isn't focusing on playing like the Super Bowl XLIX hero.

"Malcolm's not the only one who I learn from. I learn from each and every corner that's here," LeBlanc said. "No matter who it is, older guys, younger guys, we all lean on each other. We are a family, we play together, and that's the kind of bond we have."

LeBlanc said he didn't know what to expect coming into his first NFL training camp, but said his focus is simply to improve every time he steps on the field.

"I have conversations with my mom each and every day and she was just like, 'Go out there and put your best foot forward,' " LeBlanc said. "And I'm a real religious person so I pray and everything like that, I put God first in everything I do.

"Every time I come out here I just come out here and work hard and just take advantage of every opportunity that's given to me."

Video: Tuesday's training camp report

Emily McCarthy can be reached at