Patriots: Even for second-year guys, transition to NFL after college still takes some time

Photo – Eric Cahna USA Today

Moments before a swarm of reporters gathered around Kendrick Bourne’s locker after practice on Friday, practice squad receiver Tre Nixon slowly and quietly made his way through the locker room.

As a practice squad player and a second-year guy in the NFL, there’s a bit of a “be seen and not heard” mentality, especially as a member of the New England Patriots. With questions swirling around that group and the offense in general, there will be a point in time where Nixon gets his chance. Until then, he’s just trying to continue adapting to life in the NFL.

“It’s a huge difference,” Nixon said of the NFL life compared to being a college football player. “In college, everything is laid out for you. You’ve got class, then you’ve got tutoring, then you’ve got film, then you’ve got practice. In the NFL, you’ve got what you’ve got to do in the morning, but you’ve also got a lot of free time. Not free time as in go fool around, but free time like, let me go work on my body or let me catch some balls on the jugs machine.

“It’s really just about managing your time in a productive way to just better yourself every day. That’s something I had to learn. Going home at five or six o’clock, I don’t have to do homework, but my job is football now, so what can I do to get better and get my body ready.”

At any level, routine is key. Now as a professional, Nixon has tried to make sure he’s sticking with one he developed in training camp as much as possible.

“I feel like I developed my routine early in training camp,” he said. “Just as far as what I need to do to get ready for practice, what I need to do to get my body ready and going. Now, that’s just all about taking it all the way through the season. It’s a long year, so staying healthy and staying ready to go is of the utmost importance.

“My routine is already established now, it’s just about following it day in and day out.”

The other component that takes some adjusting is road trips. As a college athlete, most times are spent bonding with guys you’ll see almost 24/7 for four, sometimes five straight years. In the NFL, everyone is now a professional, which means some guys may look at it strictly as a job, while others still want to joke around and have some fun. It is a kid’s game after all.

With two straight road games to start the year, Nixon talked about how team camaraderie is built a bit differently at the next level. There’s also an element of appreciating each road trip because football can provide some guys – especially younger or practice squad guys – opportunities they never could have imagined would be open to them.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword, because some guys are more to themselves, and they don’t like to be bothered on the trip” Nixon added. “Some guys do like to fool around and laugh a little bit. You get the best of both worlds, and I feel like the team has already bonded to this point. Now, when we go on a trip, it’s more exciting than anything else because we’re in a different city.

“Football has put me in places I probably never would have been to if I didn’t play football. It’s always a good bonding experience traveling to different locations, it’s cool, it’s been a really cool experience.”