August 23, 2011

Former Maryland Laxer Yeatman Battling for Spot as Patriots Tight End

by Corey McLaughlin | | Twitter | Related: PSU's Hogan With 49ers

Will Yeatman catches a pass during a drill at Patriots training camp. The former Maryland lacrosse player says New England wideout Chad Ochocinco and defensive back Devin McCourty would make great midfielders.

© Courtesy of the New England Patriots/David Silverman

East Coasters, that shaking wasn't from an earthquake, but from the moves made by 6-foot-5, 268-pound tight end prospect Will Yeatman on the practice field in New England. The former Maryland lacrosse and football player (and Notre Dame football before that) is earning his NFL stripes in training camp with the Patriots, coached, of course, by lacrosse aficionado Bill Belichick.

We speculated on Yeatman, a former US Lacrosse high school All-American, getting a shot with the Patriots back in April around the time of the NFL draft, given the clear lacrosse connections Belichick has and the fact that the coach seems to love everything associated with the stick-and-ball sport. Yeatman seemed like just the type of project Belichick and his staff would love to see pan out.

Yeatman wasn't drafted, but sure enough – after a new collective bargaining agreement was reached in July -- he signed a free agent contract with New England. He's now in the thick of battle for a roster spot as a tight end.

The Pats have six tight ends on their current roster, and bring back regulars Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Yeatman is behind them on the depth chart, but figures to be in the running for a third or fourth tight end position with some lesser-known talents. That would land him on the game day roster or perhaps the New England practice squad.

In two preseason games, Yeatman has four catches for 23 yards and has shown blocking ability as well. According to various media reports out of training camp, he has also delivered noticeable big hits in practices. I caught up with Yeatman over the phone from camp Tuesday for a Q&A. It took six questions before the subject of new Patriots receiver Chad Ochocinco was discussed.

LM: What's the overall experience been like for you, overwhelming at all?

WY: I wouldn't want to say overwhelming, but it's been an amazing learning experience for me. The amount of knowledge amongst the coaching staff here is unbelievable as you would expect, but in terms of the educational part of football, to the drawing board, to on the field, there are so many things that I was completely unaware of in college. Now, I'm learning and conceptualizing and understanding a lot better. I've continued to grow as a player.

What's the response been from people in the lacrosse world now that you're with an NFL team?

Obviously, a lot of the people in the lacrosse world are my close friends, and they've contacted me. They're excited about it. There's not a lot of lacrosse people that know people in the NFL, so really the response has been overall excitement and people congratulating me on what I've done thus far and wishing me well for the future.

How many players or coaches there are aware of what lacrosse really is, or that you played lacrosse?

I think everyone pretty much knows that I played lacrosse in college, and now with the growth of the sport, I think everyone on the team knows about lacrosse.

Have you talked lacrosse at all with Coach Belichick since arriving there.

I know that he knows that I played lacrosse. And I know that he is a big lacrosse fan, but right now our relationship has really strictly been football. Down the road more when we talk more and we have enough time to sit back, I'm sure we'll discuss it a little bit more, but right now with the way camp's been and how diligent all of us have been working, we've been focused entirely on football.

What are some crossover skills from lacrosse that are helping you now?

Definitely the agility, dodging in relation to running routes in football, and the physical fitness. From playing lacrosse my endurance has always been great headed into football season. I actually noticed having not played lacrosse this past spring I wasn't in as a great of shape as I had been. I had been working out, but I didn't drop down in weight in all this spring, so I was a little bit bigger and bulkier than I had been going into football seasons in the past. I think the route-running aspect of football has helped out a great amount for the agility and the physical endurance and things of the nature help out.

What player with the Patriots or in the NFL would be a good lacrosse player?

There are so many terrific athletes. If you look at Chad Ochocinco, who's a great athlete, he would have been a great lacrosse player. Devin McCourty, an All-Pro defensive back, he would have been a great lacrosse player. Those two guys with their overall athleticism, they would be midfielders definitely.

What did you think of the Maryland men's lacrosse team's run to the championship game last year?

I thought it was so exciting. I was upset that we didn't win it all. I was proud of all those Terps, and I hope that they can put some runs together in the future.

Did you happen to see the new Maryland football uniforms that debuted last night?

I did actually see the uniforms. They're pretty flashy, a little bit more than we've worn in the past. They look pretty awesome.

What's the competition been like in camp for you? There are a lot of players at your position.

Right now, all I can do is control what I can control and work as hard as I can work every day to be as good as I can be. I can't worry about what's going on amongst my position or any other place on the field. There's obviously an unbelievable amount of talent at my position. We have a great coach in Brian Ferentz, a great offensive coordinator in Billy O'Brien, and a great leader in Coach Belichick. Right now, I'm working as hard as I can to be wherever they need to be on the field come the fall.

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