UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo has found a model in Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins. (AP)
INDIANAPOLIS — Two members of the Patriots who have managed to carve out impressive careers over the last few seasons are offensive lineman Logan Mankins and tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Their work hasn’t gone unnoticed by the next generation of college prospects. UCLA offensive lineman Xavier Su’a-Filo name-checked Mankins on Thursday at the combine, calling Mankins a ‘bad-ass’ who provides a perfect blueprint for any aspiring offensive lineman.
‘I watch a lot of Logan Mankins, left guard from the New England Patriots. I think Logan, he was a high draft pick, but he’s physical. He’s a bad-ass,’ Su’a-Filo said when asked if there was anyone he models his game after. ‘He started from Day 1 in New England, and I love how nasty he is — something about his game that I really try to implement.’
Mankins is a good model for the 6-foot-3, 304-pound Su’a-Filo for a couple of reasons: one, Mankins has established himself as one of the best offensive linemen in the league because of his longevity, technique, and all-around bad-assery. And two, Su’a-Filo started his college career as a tackle, has moved to guard, a position he’ll have to master at the NFL level. Mankins was a tackle in college, but has made his bones as an elite-level guard in the NFL.
‘You know, it wasn’t too bad,’ Su’a-Filo said of the transition he’s already undergone. ‘My offensive line coach, with our young offensive line, he had me take a lot of reps just to stay fresh. When I was a true freshman in 2009, I started at left tackle. So it wasn’t real foreign to me. After a little while of not playing it, all it took was a few extra reps in practice for me to feel comfortable there again, and I think it felt good playing both positions.’
As for Gronkowski, he’s served as a model for Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, a 6-foot-5, 265-pounder who had 75 catches the last two seasons with the Hawkeyes. Fiedorowicz has a couple of New England connections working for him: one, Iowa’s offensive line coach the past two seasons was Brian Ferentz, who spent the previous season as the Patriots’ tight end coach, working with both Gronkowski and Hernandez. And two, D.J. Hernandez — the brother of ex-Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez — was a graduate assistant with the Hawkeyes last year.
Fiedorowicz said Thursday he’s watched a lot of tape of Gronkowski and Hernandez.
‘I like watching Rob Gronkowski, someone I look up to. He can dominate both the line of scrimmage and down the field. That’s who I kind of want to be like,’ Fiedorowicz said of Gronkowski. ‘I was watching him on film. I always used to watch him in games, but when you see it break down as film it’s even more impressive.
‘He plays hard every down, every play. He finishes guys. He uses his body in the passing game. He’s just an impressive guy. It’s the way he plays the game,’ he added. ‘That’s what I’m shooting out to be. I proved it a little bit in the Senior Bowl and some of my times — maybe Saturday, I can show them my speed.’