The biggest New England Patriots fan on the PawSox roster this year was not born and raised in New England.
(Photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
Brent Dlugach is from Memphis, Tennessee, but he has a good reason to root for the Pats: Brent is a close friend of Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
“Stephen and I played college baseball together,” Dlugach said. “He’s from Madison, Mississippi and went to the University of Memphis with me. He actually started out on a baseball scholarship and ended up on a football scholarship because he’s a pretty darn good kicker.”
Gostkowski made a school-record 70 of 92 field goal attempts at Memphis, but didn’t fare as well as a pitcher. In three seasons on the baseball team, Stephen went 6-18 with a 6.06 ERA.
“Good arm – low 90’s fastball with a little run,” Dlugach said. “Threw a slider. Effectively wild. He was the kind of guy that you didn’t want to face in intrasquad games because he was just as likely to hit you in the helmet as he was to throw a strike. But he had a lot of talent.”
Dlugach says it didn’t take long to realize that Gostkowski was better suited for the NFL than major league baseball.
“I think his college choice came down to Memphis and Ole Miss and Ole Miss just wanted him for baseball,” Dlugach said. “Memphis said that he could go ahead and do both so we knew that he was a kicker. But I don’t think that anyone knew how good that he was. He started kicking his freshman year and the whole baseball team was out there rooting for him. We were thinking, ‘Dang, this guy is kicking them from 50 yards like it’s nothing.’ The next thing you know he’s getting drafted by the Patriots and is the highest-paid kicker in the NFL”
Dlugach is in his first year in the Red Sox organization, and playing for Pawtucket has given him the opportunity to get reacquainted with his former college teammate.
“Being up there this summer has brought us a lot closer,” Brett said. “He was always home in the summer when I was gone for the season. Then when I would come home for the off-season, he was playing for the Patriots. Now that we’re close to each other, we’ve hung out together quite a bit and rekindled the friendship.
“(Recently), me and my roommate Tommy Hottovy went up to Gillette Stadium. I guess they had a practice for season-ticket holders and he got us into the friends and family section. We went to eat afterward with all of the team and Bill Belichick was there. It was pretty neat hanging out five feet from Bill Belichick, Wes Welker, and Danny Woodhead. Then we went down to the locker room and on to the field. It was a pretty special night.”
Gostkowski is looking to bounce back from a torn quadriceps muscle that ended his season in Week 9 last year, and Dlugach looks forward to following his progress.
“He’s turned me into a Patriots fan,” Brett said. “There’s only one guy in the NFL that I know and it’s him. The only problem is that I can never get him on my fantasy football team. Somebody always drafts him before I get a chance to, but it’s not going to happen this year.”
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The PawSox will look to maintain their grip on first place in the IL North (1-up on Lehigh Valley with 19 games to go) as they host Columbus on Wednesday at 7:05.
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