FOXBORO, Mass. — Nate Solder was kicking back at his parents' bed and breakfast on Thursday night in Colorado, just relaxing while watching the draft. He's a country boy who will fit in just fine with the rest of the Patriots' offensive linemen.
Solder, a hunter who has killed — and eaten — an elk and a deer, won't have much trouble finding conversation with his new linemates.
"Game meat is the best," Solder said about his trips to the grocery store in the wilderness. "It's funny when you go hunting. You kind of get hungry. I enjoyed both of them, actually."
The pick was certainly surprising, but the Patriots might have wanted it that way. They were scheduled to host him at Gillette Stadium earlier this month before canceling his trip a day before. Then, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia made an under-the-radar visit to Solder's headquarters on Monday. Other than that, Solder said he had "fairly limited" contact with New England.
"I was sitting there hoping and praying that they would pick me because it's such a great organization," Solder said.
Solder might be best developing for a season before jumping into starting duty, so his addition might not mean the end of the line for left tackle Matt Light, who has been the Patriots' starter for 10 seasons and three Super Bowl victories.
If Light returns, he'll likely be the starter at left tackle with Sebastian Vollmer on the right side. But without Light, Solder would most likely be the left tackle, both of the present and future, because he's never played on the right side. At the very least, it should spark an interesting competition once training camp opens.
"I have all the respect in the world for those guys," Solder said. "I know competition makes everyone better, so that's going to be a great opportunity."
Head coach Bill Belichick has scouted Solder for awhile and got good reviews from Scarnecchia and newly hired assistant strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera, who was hired from Colorado.
"Nate was a player that we've been on for a long time," Belichick said. "We hired Moses, who was at Colorado last year. He certainly gave us a little insight. Nate's been a solid player for Colorado at left tackle. Certainly, there's a lot of things he'll need to do to improve, but I feel like he's a good talented guy, a hardworking kid. If he can keep doing that, I think he'll be able to contribute for us."