For Stanford double-major Cameron Fleming, learning Patriots playbook shouldn’t be difficult
|06.13.14 at 11:10 am ET|
For rookies — all new players, really — learning the Patriots playbook is a bit of a challenge with the numerous schemes and many new concepts. But for rookie right tackle Cameron Fleming, the X’s and O’s will be nothing compared to what he went through during his four years in the classroom at Stanford.
Fleming double-majored in aeronautics and astronautics, so he is no stranger to foreign concepts and challenging his brain.
“He’s designed planes in class and stuff like that,” Stanford offensive line coach Mike Bloomgren said in a phone interview. “He knows that is what he wants to do after football, and so not only is he your typical Stanford kid, but he’s one that majored in that. He’s absolutely brilliant.”
Last year as a senior Fleming needed to schedule special meetings with Bloomgren to go over game plans, as Fleming was in class when the rest of the team had meetings. Over lunch each day the pair would go over what Fleming missed, becoming very close to one another over the course of the season.
Bloomgren coached in the NFL, serving as an offensive assistant with the Jets for four seasons before joining Stanford in 2011. With that NFL experience, he knows what the playbooks look like and installed a similar philosophy at Stanford with multiple plays being called in the huddle, many audibles, etc. He said it will be a seamless transition for Fleming to the pro game.
“Absolutely, especially in a system like ours and one like the New England system,” Bloomgren said. “The little that I know about it, it certainly requires you to be a thinking man. A guy that can go to a second play and have the quarterback come to the line and audible, do whatever he tells you to do, and Cameron is that guy. He’s a guy that can certainly adjust on the run, and that is nothing new for him to go to the line of scrimmage with two or three plays called in the huddle and he’s told which one to run.”
On the field Fleming is a monster. He stands 6-foot-5, 323 pounds. As a sophomore he started 11 games and protected Andrew Luck while the quarterback threw a school-record 37 touchdown passes. As a junior Fleming started 14 games at right tackle and was named All-Pac-12 honorable mention. As a senior he started all 14 games and took home numerous awards, including All-Pac-12 second team, Sporting News All-Pac-12 and Athlon Sports All-Pac-12 second team.
During Fleming’s time at Stanford the Cardinal went to three consecutive BCS bowls — the Rose Bowl in 2011 and 2013 and the Fiesta Bowl in 2012. It was prior to the 2012 Fiesta Bowl when Bloomgren and Fleming discussed the possibility that he could one day play professionally. After that the Texas native seemed to take his game to another level.
“He is an unbelievable worker,” Bloomgren said. “He’s a guy that comes early to the field and he’s going to be out there working on whatever you gave him to work on. Whether it’s sets, whether it’s punch, whatever it is, he’s going to be out there working on it, and as you get through practice he’s going to grind his way through and may even do some things afterwards, but he’s going to end it where he’s one of the last guys on the field doing something to help his lower body.”
Being a person with such a large stature, this works both for and against Fleming. He’s very athletic for his size, evidenced by his being a standout basketball player in high school, but because of his size he lacks flexibility, something he’s constantly working on.
“He’s really, really athletic in terms of foot speed. The one area that Cameron always has had to work on is his flexibility,” Bloomgren said. “He does that whether it’s through yoga, stretching, he’s put in the time and gotten much better, but it is something he’s always going to battle because he’s just a big guy.”
Chosen as the final pick of the fourth round in last month’s dratt, Fleming joins a Patriots team behind Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon at right tackle. If asked, he could play multiple positions on the line, although Bloomgren described him as a “custom-made right tackle.”
Being around the game for as long as he has, Bloomgren has a good sense of what it takes to play on Sundays, and he firmly believes his former lineman has what it takes.
“I do. I do because of his strength,” Bloomgren said. “The other thing is you know what team he is going to and you know how well coached they are, so he is a guy that is going to come in and have a lot of coaches give him a lot of instruction early on how they want it done and how he fits into that system.”
Even if Fleming doesn’t crack the starting five, his athleticism gives him the versatility to do some different things, perhaps in a jumbo tight end package, with Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui serving as the only tight ends with real experience.
“If he is not a guy in the starting five, which I do think he’s capable of, but if he’s not, then would he make a good jumbo tight end? Absolutely,” Bloomgren said. “He’s a great athlete and he has the ability to do some really cool things.”