On Saturdays throughout the season, the plan will be to highlight one Patriots player's football journey. This week, it is receiver Sam Aiken.
Now in his seventh NFL season, Aiken was named the Patriots' special teams captain in 2009 and scored his first career touchdown in the team's most recent game, a 35-7 win over the Buccaneers. Through seven games, he has played 212 snaps at receiver (including penalties), which already surpasses his snap total from all of last season (143).
On when he first started playing football: "I was 6 years old, started in Pop Warner. I was in Aberdeen, Maryland because my father was in the military, and from there I went to California and played there. Then I came back to North Carolina, where I was born, for high school. The whole time I was playing quarterback, until my junior year when they moved me to receiver."
On what made him first try football: "Probably sitting down with my father every Sunday watching the games. Ever since then, football has been in my life."
On what teams and players he followed: "I'd have to say Chicago. We'd always see them on TV. My favorite player was Jerry Rice, because that was my father's favorite. He always talked about him, so I stuck with him."
When he knew he wanted to play in college: "My dad was in the military, so I always thought maybe that maybe that would be what I did. Plan B would be playing football in college. I was just being realistic because not a lot of guys make it as a professional, or even playing in college. I had a big game against Clinton my junior year, six catches for one and change, and that's when I knew it might be a possibility."
His best memory playing in college at University of North Carolina: "Beating Florida State at home. We hadn't beaten them since I was there. I remember I was running a 6-yard crossing route, and I caught it. It was a bootleg and I jumped from the 5 and jumped over Chris Hope -- who is now starting for the Tennessee Titans -- and that's a clip that I keep on my computer to remember."
On entering the NFL as a third-round draft choice of the Bills in 2003: "My agent flew me out to Arizona to train, and I just trained, trained and trained. I remember my agent said 'Do not run the 40.' To me, it was like I had something to prove because Charles Rogers, Taylor Jacobs and Larry Johnson were there too. They didn't run the 40. I went out and ran it, and ran a 4.6. I fell down [in the draft], but looking back, it was great."
Signing with the Patriots as a free agent in 2008: "I was at Buffalo, a special teams guru, loving it. But it was always New England that we couldn't really beat. It was the last year of my contract and I said 'Hey, this is the place I want to go.' I gave my agent a call and made it happen. Ever since then, I've been happy to be here. They've given me the opportunity to play receiver, which I'm glad, because they don't just look at me as a special teams guy."
Thoughts on being with the Patriots: "To me, it's the way it's run. It's first class. Everyone wants to win. You don't have your group over here, and then another group over there. Everyone is one."
What he enjoys about football: "Just playing it. It's a business, but it's fun. Once it isn't fun for me, and it's more about the business aspect, then it's time for me to give it up. If I'm not out there practicing and laughing or doing something like that, it's time for me to hang it up. I'm just enjoying myself."
Past football journeys: