Elandon Roberts had his number switched from 51 to 52, but he’s cool with the move. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com photo)
FOXBORO — Elandon Roberts had some idea of what he was getting into when he showed up at Gillette Stadium and was assigned No. 51.
The rookie linebacker out of Houston had been given Jerod Mayo’s old number — Mayo, considered a longtime pillar of the New England defense, retired this past offseason after eight seasons with the team.
“When I first got in I was (number) 51. When I went through camp. I was 51, and when I came back, I was 52,” he recalled Thursday afternoon during a break at Gillette Stadium. “That’s my number. I’m just blessed to have the number. I have no problem with the switch. I’m just blessed to be in this situation and be a Patriot.”
Mayo made his name as a tackling machine with the Patriots. As a collegian, Roberts — who now sports No. 52 — developed a similar rep. At Houston, the 6-foot, 235-pound linebacker finished the 2015 season with 88 solo tackles (tops in the NCAA) and 142 tackles total. He also had six sacks, 19 tackles for loss, one interception and two forced fumbles.
“I think Elandon’s a very instinctive player. I think you can see that on film. Whatever his measureables are, he plays to them,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of Roberts shortly after New England made him the 214th overall pick in the draft.
“He plays fast, he plays strong, and he’s very productive in terms of being around the ball so we’ll see how all that translates at our level. He seems to be a very instinctive player, a smart player, has good awareness and can find the ball.”
The sixth-round pick knows he’s starting from zero again as a rookie.
“Right now, I’m just trying to give the Patriots the best player they want. The best asset,” he said. “I’m just working hard right now and being that player they want. Whatever they want me to do, that’s what I’ll do. That’s where my focus is right now.”
He added: “Right now, I’m just working hard, day in and day out. It’s just a grind. Everyone in this family, we come to work and we work hard. Whatever the Patriots need me to play, I’ll do it.”
Roberts said one thing that has helped with the acclimation process is the culture in New England.
“With the organization that we’re in, we’re a family. We trust one another,” he said. “That’s just the culture of this team.”