|Rock Hill natives Gilmore, Patterson eye Super Bowl hardware|
|Patriots teammates excited for opportunity|
|Published Friday, February 1, 2019 1:08 pm|
|PHOTO | HERBERT L. WHITE|
|New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who played at Rock Hill's South Pointe High, is looking for his second Super Bowl ring in three seasons.|
ATLANTA—Whether it is your first Super Bowl appearance, or been here before, playing in the ultimate game of the NFL season never gets old.
Two kids from Rock Hill grew up dreaming of this moment when their New England Patriots face the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII Sunday at 6:30 p.m. One, cornerback Stephon Gilmore, has been here before.
“You know what to expect as far as the stuff that goes around it, but once the game gets here, you kind of tune in, and play football,” he said. “No matter if you’ve been here four times, you still have to go out and compete to the best of your ability, and try to win your matchup.”
For teammate Cordarrelle Patterson, a wide receiver, the experience is a first, and his teammates have encouraged him to simply embrace the opportunity.
“Just enjoy the moment,” Patterson said. “Don’t get too caught up in the fame or the hype or anything. Just go out and enjoy the moment.”
Said tight end Rob Gronkowski: “My first Super Bowl, I was really young, 22 years old. When you go from year two to year nine, you definitely learn more about the game. Just knowing more about the game going out there, you definitely feel better.”
Neither Gilmore or Patterson began their respective careers with the Patriots, but both were first-round NFL Draft picks. Patterson joined the team last March after a season in Oakland. His first four seasons in the league were with Minnesota, who selected him 29th overall in the 2013 draft. He earned Pro Bowl selections in 2013 in 2016 as a returner, living up to his nickname “The Flash,” as he led the league in kickoff return average three times. Patterson has 21 receptions for 247 yards and three touchdowns in his first season with the Patriots. In the AFC championship game against Kansas City, he caught two passes for 18 yards.
“I’ve been used a lot of ways,” Patterson said. “I guess I’m just getting more recognition here. [Offensive coordinator] Josh McDaniels does a hell of a job each and every week dialing up plays for me. It’s my thing—I’ve got to go out and execute them. I’ve got to show them at practice the week before that I can go out and do it. Hopefully in game-time, hopefully he calls the plays, and I’ve got to go out and show him that I can do it.”
|PHOTO | HERBERT L. WHITE|
|Cordarrelle Patterson, who played at Rock Hill Northwestern High, is playing for a Super Bowl win in his first season with the Patriots.|
Patterson, who graduated Northwestern High, 6 miles from Gilmore’s alma mater South Pointe High, attended Hutchinson Community College from 2010-12, followed by a year at Tennessee. Gilmore, who attended South Carolina and was selected 10th overall in the 2012 draft by Buffalo, already has a Super Bowl ring from his first season with the Patriots. He’s going to his third Super Bowl in as many seasons. He has started 95 of his 97 career regular season appearances, including every game this season, including postseason. Gilmore’s regular season tally included 45 tackles, two interceptions and a sack. Postseason included two tackles, as well as an interception against the Chargers.
Both Gilmore and Patterson grew up during the dawn of the Carolina Panthers, who began playing in Charlotte in 1996, after spending their inaugural season at Clemson. Having an NFL team right up I-77 brought the dream to life.
“Growing up, as a younger guy, watching those guys in Charlotte [and] being so close, of course a guy like me always thought, ‘I’d love to play for them,’” Patterson said. “They’re so close to home—20-25 minutes away from the house. It was always the dream. It didn’t happen. I had to take my talents elsewhere, and I’m happy where I’m at.”
Patterson kept an eye on fellow Northwestern alum Ben Watson, a New Orleans tight end. Both have worn a Patriots uniform; however, Watson has the ring from winning Super Bowl XXXIX.
“The guys I kept up with, we always texting,” Patterson said. “Growing up from the little town where I’m from and getting to talk to those guys, especially like Ben Watson. He’s a guy I always looked up to. He always leads by example. You follow behind Ben Watson, you’ll be doing the right thing.”
Gilmore’s family and friends are embracing the Super Bowl hype more than he does.
“It’s a big event, obviously, but it’s like they are more excited than I am, because I kind of focus on the football part of it,” Gilmore said. “It’s a great opportunity. It is so hard to get to this position. You never know if you are going to get back to this position again. I’m just trying to focus on the opportunity now.”
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