FOXBOROUGH – Derek Rivers was pretty excited to get selected by the Patriots in the third round of the NFL Draft Friday night.
His mother, Mary? She took it to another level.
“My mom lost her mind,’’ Rivers said Thursday as he stood in the lighthouse end zone at Gillette Stadium for the first time as a Patriot. “She was so excited and everybody on that side of the family was excited. My friends and family, they were all excited [about] coming to this type of – I mean, it’s a first-class organization. I couldn’t ask for anything better.’’
Rivers was born in Augusta, Maine, and Mary went to Northeastern so he has some family roots in New England – he said his mom’s side of the family is loaded with “huge Patriots fans.’’
Rivers spoke briefly after being introduced with the rest of the Patriots draft class and although it’s the smallest in franchise history with just four players, team owner Robert Kraft was still impressed by the size of the players.
Rivers (6 feet 5 inches), Antonio Garcia (6-7), Deatrich Wise Jr. (6-5), and Conor McDermott (6-8) struck an intimidating and towering pose standing between Robert and Jonathan Kraft.
“This is the 24th year of doing this and there’s definitely something in the milk they’re drinking because the height is ridiculous,’’ said Kraft. “We think we’re competitive with the Celts!”
The owner is not discouraged by the small class size and acknowledged that in reality, the Patriots did very well with their picks.
“This is the smallest class officially — it’s the first time we haven’t had a first-round pick or a second-round pick,’’ Kraft said. “But we think that Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy, Mike Gillislee, and Dwayne Allen are also part of this draft class. We gave up picks for every one of them, so we’re really delighted to be here and keep up this tradition.’’
Rivers said he’s looking forward to getting started, and he believes the toughest part right now will be adjusting from a college schedule to professional agenda.
Rivers, who will wear No. 95 – most recently worn by Chris Long and Chandler Jones, hasn’t met any of his new teammates yet (other than his fellow draftees) but he’s looking forward to it – especially Tom Brady.
“I’m going to be starstruck, I’m not going to lie,’’ he said. I got to meet Luke Kuechly earlier in the year in Cincinnati, and I was starstruck then, so I can only imagine what it’s going to be like when I meet Brady. It will be crazy.’’
Ferguson, Mays get invites
The Patriots have invited veteran free agents Ego Ferguson and Taylor Mays to their upcoming minincamp, according to a league source. Ferguson is a 6-2, 300-pound defensive tackle, whom the Bears drafted in the second round in 2014. He played a full slate his rookie season but his sophomore year was cut short by a shoulder injury and he spent 2016 on injured reserve. He was recently waived by both the Bears and Packers. A safety, Mays was a second-round pick of the 49ers in 2010 and has 80 career games under his belt with the 49ers, Bengals, and Raiders . . . Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch was inducted into the athletic hall of fame at Cibola High School, his alma mater in Albuquerque, on Wednesday. “This is unbelievable. This is probably one of the best days of my life,’’ Branch told students of his surprise honor, the Albuquerque Journal reported . . . The rest of the draftees also were assigned jersey numbers: Garcia (63); Wise (91); and McDermott (67) . . . The Patriots also have invited kicker Josh Gable in for a look. Gable didn’t play in college but has been excelling for the Nebraska Danger of the Indoor Football League and is known for his trick kicks. Gable, 26, formerly played professional soccer in Italy and Belgium.
Jim McBride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.