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Bruschi bonds with Herzlich, Gronkowski

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The inspiring stories of Tedy Bruschi and Boston College's Mark Herzlich have been well-documented. One couldn't help but link their football comebacks when Herzlich was one of several players to help Bruschi with instruction at this afternoon’s third annual SBLI Kids’ Football Clinic, at Gillette Stadium.

There is a sentimental bond between the two.

“Both of us were at the top of our games when adversity struck,” Bruschi said. “To see him come back the way he has, has formed a bond between us. Over the last year, we’ve developed a relationship, and I’m very excited to watch him play this year. I’m very excited, because I know what he’s gone through to get back to this point.”

The SBLI Kids Football Clinic had stations where campers learned a different aspect of the game. Bruschi, Herzlich, linebacker Jerod Mayo, former Patriot Doug Flutie, rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski and rookie punter Zoltan Mesko were the instructors at each station.

“Are they all gonna be professional football players? The odds are against them,” Bruschi said of the campers. “But for them to be out here and learn fundamentals, and to be active, practicing a certain skill that they can get better at, is important for them to learn.”

Bruschi fielded a number of questions from reporters, ranging from his thoughts on the current group of Patriots -- Jerod Mayo “has only scratched the surface”, while Gary Guyton’s extension today is “well-deserved” -- to his own kids.

In Bruschi’s new profession as an ESPN analyst, objectivity is paramount. But forgive No. 54 if he breaks out of the mold when it comes to a fellow alum. Bruschi, an Arizona grad, couldn’t help but get excited about his Patriots picking up Gronkowski, a fellow Wildcat, in the second round.

“I knew about him very well. In the (ESPN) studio the afternoon of, we were talking about this is a guy that needs to go today,” he said. “And the Patriots went and drafted him, so I said, let’s go ahead and run some (highlights) of this guy, so I can give a little bit of love for my Arizona alum.

“We’ve kept in touch with text messages, and he said he saw me talk about him on the draft. I was ecstatic to see him come here, so I can keep a close eye on him.”

Bruschi confessed he still had the itch to play when watching the team this past season, cracking that “I changed my mind once I saw Ray Rice go 83…it’s still gonna take a while, though.”

As for the kids themselves in this clinic, he prefers the numbers to be small (54 is the perfect number) for purposes of individual attention. But what about his own kids, all three of whom were here?

“I just want to see them break a sweat,” he laughed. “My oldest son is starting to discover football and he tells me he wants to be a receiver, so I hope he gets a lot out of the 'Gronk' station at this camp. And throwing also, I can see him playing quarterback a little, too. So hopefully he gets a lot out of Doug’s station.”