FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots tight end Matt Lengel used Eastern Kentucky as a springboard to his NFL career, but his college journey actually started at Northeastern University in Boston.
Northeastern disbanded its football program after Lengel’s redshirt season in 2009, and in that sense, Lengel’s success with the Patriots -- most recently highlighted by his 18-yard touchdown reception in Saturday’s victory over the New York Jets -- keeps the “memory” of Northeastern football alive.
During his Monday morning conference call, Bill Belichick referenced other colleges that went through a similar situation -- Hofstra, Boston University and University of Alabama-Birmingham (for one year), before saying, “We try not to bring those up.”
As for when a reporter brought up Lengel and his growth as a player since the Patriots signed him off the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad on Nov. 2, Belichick first credited Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio and the scouting staff.
Lengel, who had been signed as an undrafted free agent by the Bengals in 2015, had never played in a regular-season game when the Patriots signed him to their 53-man roster.
“There wasn’t a lot to go on, just preseason and college film if you want to go back to that,” Belichick said. “He’s obviously long [6-foot-7] and you can see him playing in preseason; not a lot early [in games] because Cincinnati has pretty good depth at tight end. He wasn’t at the top of that rotation, but [is] a young player to work with at that position that has some physical qualities; length, size, runs well, caught the ball well in some limited observation that we had.”
“Matt's absorbed it. He works hard. He listens well and he tries to do what he's instructed to do and he puts a lot of effort into it,” Belichick said of the Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania native. “If a player listens and he understands and then he works hard and commits to try and do it then it’s almost impossible for him not to improve and get better. Matt has and that’s what has happened.”
As for the link to Northeastern, it had Belichick reflecting on Barry Gallup, the Huskies’ coach from 1991-99 who has been part of the fabric of New England college football for decades between Boston College and NU.
“Coach Gallup has just been a tremendous fixture in college football in this area. It would be impossible for me to say enough good things about him and what an outstanding person and coach I think he is and how much he has meant to so many young people that he has interacted with,” Belichick said.
“What a great example he sets and how caring he is for the players and really how I'd say I think everybody that knows him feels a real love and a personal friendship with him. He's a great guy.”