Nick Brossette was admittedly caught off guard.
Tom Brady knew him.
An undrafted rookie from LSU, Brossette was watching film last summer in Foxborough after the running back signed a free agent deal with the Patriots.
“It was at camp and I went up to him and I told him my name and stuff and he shook my hand,’’ Brossette said recently. “And he knew who I was, so that was the crazy thing about it. I was pretty excited.’’
Brossette showed some flashes in camp and in the exhibition games, and he said Brady was a constant source of support during the dog days.
“Camp went quite well and he’d say to me, ‘Keep making your plays’ and everything,’’ said Brossette. “Then in the preseason [games], he always came up to me and told me, ‘Good job. Just keep doing it.’ ’’
Ultimately, Brossette was caught in a numbers crunch at running back and he was released at the end of the summer.
Now Brossette is trying to introduce himself to more people around the NFL as he showcases his talents during the inaugural season of the XFL as a member of the DC Defenders.
Brossette is one of a dozen XFLers with ties to the Patriots, including DC teammates Anthony Johnson and Scooby Wright.
The new XFL, which in no way resembles the original XFL of 2001 — though it is still owned by wrestling magnate Vince McMahon — just completed the fourth week of its 10-week schedule.
“With the Patriots, I learned a lot and I loved it up there. I enjoyed my teammates and just the process. And it was good being with Bill [Belichick] and Ivan [Fears] and that staff,’’ said Brossette. “My feeling was like, ‘If I can play for Bill and with the Patriots, I can play with anybody.’ So, I really just enjoyed and had a lot of fun with it.’’
Though his time in Foxborough wasn’t as long as he would have liked, Brossette, who is still in a group text with New England’s backs, said the time was filled with lessons that he’s used in continuing to build his football résumé.
“Be detailed in your work. The little things matter. Just play for your teammates and one another and everything else will come,’’ said Brossette, ticking off some of the teaching points he remembered Belichick stressing. “So, just enjoy the process and just work on your craft each and every day . . . And just have fun playing football.’’
Johnson, who suited up for four games for the Patriots in 2016, similarly remembers his time in New England and points to it as playing a huge role in his development.
“That team comes first and that you determine you,’’ said Johnson, asked about what he remembers most about his Patriots experience. “Bill always stressed on playing for the guy next to you and understand that your job is the most important job, not the guy’s job next to you, not the guy’s job behind you, but your job . . . Bill was the first guy to actually give me my start. So, it was just an honor and a blessing to play under him and to learn that discipline and honestly become a professional in that organization.’’
Because of his NFL experience, teammates have leaned on Johnson for advice as they learn to become professionals. He relishes his role as a leader.
“I tell these guys don’t get too down on yourself and don’t get too high on yourself,’’ said Johnson, who remains close with former Patriots teammates Chris Long, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, and Patrick Chung. “Know that everything can be corrected. So, I’m just trying to let these guys know that it’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint. Take all the corrections, man, and understand that being a professional is about doing the little things.’’
Brossette, Johnson, and Wright all talked about the importance of setting a strong foundation for the XFL and how important they believe it is for it to be a feeder league for the NFL.
“I like this league, it’s pretty cool,’’ said Brossette. “It’s important for guys like me who want to continue playing. I like hearing stories from guys and how they’re trying to get back to the NFL. It’s neat.’’
In addition to the Defenders trio, nine other players who have been with the Patriots organization in one form or another are suiting up for XFL clubs: linebacker Christian Kuntz and offensive tackle Willie Beavers (Dallas Renegades); defensive end Kony Ealy (Houston Roughnecks); center Ian Silberman (New York Guardians); quarterback Taylor Heinicke and linebacker Steve Beauharnais (St. Louis Battlehawks); running back Kenneth Farrow (Seattle Dragons); and offensive tackle Martez Ivey and receiver Ryan Davis (Tampa Bay Vipers).
Jim McBride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.