Football journey: Jake Bequette

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots obviously have high hopes for rookie defensive end Jake Bequette. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have drafted him in the third round.

It’s been a quiet first year for Bequette, who has played in two games (17 total snaps, coming deep in the fourth quarter) as he works behind the scenes at a re-stocked, crowded position. Bequette flashed some solid pass-rush skills in training camp, and currently finds himself behind Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jermaine Cunningham, Trevor Scott and Justin Francis on the depth chart.

The 23-year-old Bequette (pronounced BECK-it), who is a native of Arkansas and attended the University of Arkansas, shared his “football journey” with ESPNBoston.com:

When he first started playing football: “I started in the ninth grade, which is kind of a later start than others. My dad [Jay] wouldn’t let me play until I was a freshman in high school. He thought it would be better for me to play other sports and figure out what I loved, and if I really wanted to play football and work hard at football.”

First positions: “Tight end and defensive end.”

Favorite football memories at Catholic High School: “Our teams weren’t particularly good. I’d have to say the relationships I made. Two of my best friends were on the team; we played basketball and football together. Those relationships were very special to me.”

Players and teams he followed growing up: “It wasn’t anyone specific. I liked to watch college and NFL players at my position, to watch the best and see how they worked at it, then pick out something he was great at and try to emulate. ... Being from Arkansas, there are no pro football teams down there. I was a bandwagon guy. Whoever was good, I’d follow.”

Why he attended the University of Arkansas: “It really was the only choice. Not in a bad way, but I grew up following the ‘Hogs’ -- my dad, my uncle and my grandfather all played at the university. So I had quite a legacy up there in Fayetteville and was very blessed to have the opportunity to go there and play football. Once Arkansas pulled the trigger -- I think they were my second or third scholarship offer -- I committed immediately and knew that was where I wanted to go.”

Other options before his Arkansas commitment: “I think Mississippi State and Kansas State offered me early. I wasn’t very highly recruited, so when Arkansas offered me, I knew I better take it before they changed their mind.”

Top football memories at Arkansas: “We won 21 games my last two years there, as a junior and senior, and that was very special. We got to our first BCS game, the Sugar Bowl, even though we lost. Starting from scratch, when Coach [Bobby] Petrino came in my redshirt freshman year, we were bad -- 4-8 my first year, then 8-5 my second year. Very humble beginnings. Then to be part of a senior class that built something from nothing, that was a lot of fun.”

Selected in the third round (90th overall) by the Patriots: “I was very excited. The Patriots are a first-class organization and I’m very blessed to be part of it. I have that mindset every day; that I’m going to give it 100 percent to do everything I can to help the team and get better. ... My agent had a pretty good idea. He gave me a couple teams to look out for, and the Patriots were one of them.”

Making the transition from college to the NFL: “I feel like I’m very blessed to do something I love to do every day, and I also love to work hard and grind. This is the perfect fit for that. I’m just trying to come in here and take it all in, and work on little things to make myself better every single day. ... You have guys in this locker room -- Vince Wilfork on defense, Jerod Mayo, Tom Brady on offense. These are guys at the top of their game, professionally and personally, and they are great leaders and great role models.”

What he loves about football: “The competitiveness. You really can’t find that anywhere else, other than sports and especially in football. To play at the highest level, with the best players in the world, it’s very special.”

Adjusting to life in New England: “I’m from Arkansas, born and raised, never lived anywhere else. I’m a country boy at heart, so this is a big change for me. It’s been good. I’ve been pleasantly surprised about the area and the people.”

Summing up his football journey: “I enjoy the journey. I enjoy the process. I’m not someone that gets hung up on looking back on the previous accomplishments or thinking I’ve climbed some kind of mountain. I’ve always enjoyed the grind and the process. If I had to sum it up in one word, I’d say it’s ‘unfolding.’"