FOXBORO, Mass. — James Ihedigbo got his first chance to fulfill a lifelong dream of donning a Patriots jersey when he debuted at Saturday's practice.
The former UMass All-American and Amherst, Mass., native signed Friday night and took part in the walkthrough, wearing No. 43. He grew up as a Patriots fan, and the safety fittingly idolized Rodney Harrison.
"I went to games when I was in high school at the old Foxboro Stadium and said one day I'll be playing here," Ihedigbo said. "Here I am."
When the news broke Friday, Ihedigbo's Facebook and Twitter blew up with congratulatory messages from his family and friends from Massachusetts. Ihedigbo's former UMass teammate, Brandon London — who has played wide receiver for the Giants, Dolphins, Steelers and the CFL's Montreal Alouettes — was elated for him because he knew how much it meant for Ihedigbo to play for his hometown team.
Ihedigbo can provide depth at safety, but his most valuable asset in the NFL has been on special teams, where he excelled for the Jets for four seasons. He's got three weeks to prove he deserves a spot on the Patriots' active roster, and he's been ready for that challenge for years.
"Now that I'm in the ideal situation, a place I want to be, it's great," Ihedigbo said.