James Ihedigbo happy to be back home
|08.20.11 at 3:50 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Patriots safety James Ihedigbo, though new to the team after spending the first three years of his career with the Jets, is pretty well-versed in New England football. A Patriots fan growing up and a graduate of UMass Amherst, the Northampton native showed that despite playing for the team’s biggest rival before, his allegiance to the Pats is back. In fact, the one time that Ihedigbo mentioned the Jets as he met with the media Saturday, he did not refer to them by name. Instead, he called his last team “the old place I was playing at.”
It seems Ihedigbo couldn’t be more thrilled to be playing football in Masachusetts again. It was at Amherst Regional High School that he was All-League and All-Western Masachussetts twice. At UMass, he was a two-time All-A-10 selection, as well as a 1-AA All-American in 2006. Now, after a detour in the Meadowlands, he is once again playing his home football in his home state.
“I was born and raised Pats fan,” Ihedigbo (pronounced EE-hed-ee-bo) said Saturday. “[I] went to games when I was in high school at the old Foxboro Stadium and said ‘one day I’m going to be playing here.’ Lo and behold, here I am.”
Ihedigbo as made his NFL contributions both as a safety and as a special-teamer. He comes to a New England team that prior to his signing had only three healthy safeties in Brandon Meriweather, Patrick Chung and Sergio Brown. He noted that he is ready to play “wherever they need me to play,” whether it’s as a defensive back or a special-teamer.
“Any way that the Patriots need me to help, I’m all for it,” he said, “contributing in special teams and defense. Any way to help us win.”
As a safety, Ihedigbo said growing up in Massachusetts provided him with a good role model at his position.
Said Ihedigbo: “I kind of modeled my game after Rodney Harrison. Physical player, knew what he was supposed to do at all times. He was a leader, and played the game very physical.”
Any feelings one way or the other about the Patriots had to be suppressed when he went to the NFL. Playing for the Jets, he was happy to change allegiances, but is even happier to change back.
“It’s work,” he said. “You’ve got to do what’s best for your situation. But now that I’m in the ideal situation, the place that I want to be, it’s great.”
Ihdigbo joins the Pats after a long layoff. After the Jets elected against retaining the restricted free agent, he had to wait throughout the first two weeks of the preseason to find a new team. Now he’s found a home, and it’s back at home.
“It’s kind of a childhood dream to be able to come back to play for the same team you grew up watching,” he said. “I’m just excited for the opportunity.”