FOXBOROUGH — Devin Lucien returned to California as he has done every offseason to work out at Crespi Carmelite, the high school in Encino where the talented wide receiver hauled in 18 touchdown passes his senior year.
At some point between those workouts, a school official gave him a white workout shirt with “Crespi” emblazoned on the back.
Lucien was sure to bring the shirt back this year when he reported to the Patriots for his second season. It has become his preferred practice garment. The school letters peek out from underneath his No. 13 jersey, reminding Lucien of his roots as he grinds to distinguish himself in a wide receiver group stacked with talent.
“Any time you wear something that resembles where you’re from, you take pride in it,” Lucien said Monday. “You know to make sure I try my hardest with it on and remember where I came from and where I’m going.”
With Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, and Danny Amendola likely to round out the receiver group, it’s a steep climb for Lucien, who spent all of last season on the practice squad.
Lucien garnered attention in training camp as part of the second unit when he made an acrobatic catch during joint practices with the Jaguars. He hauled in a deep pass from Jacoby Brissett — the type of positive impact he has been eager to make in a game.
He played 65 percent of the offensive snaps in the Patriots’ 27-23 loss to the Texans on Saturday and caught two passes for 15 yards.
“I feel like I’ve always been able to make plays regardless if there’s anybody on me or not,” said Lucien. “I’ve been able to maneuver my body to make a play. But I wasn’t able to put as much together as I wanted to.
“I had a fast start to training camp, and I want to keep that momentum. It hasn’t all really came together but hopefully with the right work I can get it this week.”
Coach Bill Belichick has seen a notable progression in Lucien’s game, both physically and mentally, as the young receiver has grasped the more complicated concepts of the playbook. Belichick also noted that he has been able to move Lucien around the offense after he was limited to one side last season.
“Devin had a really good offseason, worked hard,” Belichick said. “He’s a tough kid and knows a lot more about our offense and our adjustments. His knowledge and experience in the system has helped him, and he’s putting in a lot of hard work.
“He’s improved in all areas, physically, understanding the playbook, techniques, he’s making progress.”
Informed of his coach’s praise, Lucien smiled but stopped short.
“That’s great that came from Bill, but I’ve got to put it together on the field,” Lucien said. “Put together the positive he’s saying and some of the things I know I can improve on so I can get my chance. That’s the best way to stick here.”
In 2015, his lone season at Arizona State as a graduate transfer from UCLA, Lucien led the Sun Devils with 66 catches for 1,074 yards and eight TDs.
Both college offenses featured a spread attack. As Lucien described it, his focus was to get open as quickly as he could, something that included a rich amount of freelancing. With the Patriots, he has learned the value of his position and how it fits into the entire scheme, whether he’s getting the ball or not. A play Lucien ran at Arizona State could have as few as two or three details, whereas a play from the Patriots’ scheme could have 12.
“I’m still trying to get that out of me, so I’m doing exactly what I have to do instead of just trying to get open,” Lucien said.
That means emphasizing fundamentals such as the precise depth of his routes. The difference between running a route a yard too short or long can have ramifications on the entire play, something Lucien is still learning.
“It’s something I know coaches have gotten on me and I really want to fix,” Lucien said. “Just making sure you do the right thing every single time. That’s something I’m trying to grasp, just do it every single time — regardless of the down, regardless of how the game is going — just doing your job every time.”