FOXBORO - They will arrive at Gillette Stadium in a few days filled with hope, wide-eyed and bowled over at the prospects of taking the next step up, from college football to the pros.
Friday night was probably the best time to be a football player, and the four players selected by the Patriots on the second day of the NFL Draft mirrored that.
"From the things I've heard about New England, there are a lot of pluses and very few minuses. I'm just ready to get in there and get started," said outside linebacker Jamie Collins of Southern Mississippi, the 52nd overall pick in the draft and the Patriots' first this year.
"It's an exciting time, man," added wide receiver Aaron Dobson of Marshall, the 59th overall pick. "Just to have the opportunity to play in the NFL and play for a great team like the Patriots is just a blessing from the man above. I'm just excited to hit the ground running."
Perhaps no two players were happier to be joining the Patriots than a pair of Rutgers teammates - cornerback Logan Ryan, the 83rd overall pick, and safety Duron Harmon, taken at No. 91.
"I think the celebration from the family that I have with me was equally as loud when we heard Duron get picked behind me," Ryan said via conference call. "He is one of my best friends that I've had through college. He has played behind me in college and he has made me be a better player, honestly. I can't think of a better person to be a Patriot alongside myself other than Duron Harmon."
"I just had a great feeling about today," said Harmon, who watched the draft on TV with his mother, sister and a few close friends. "This day has really been a great day the New England Patriots saw something in me that they liked, and they went with it.
"I talked to Logan and he said he was really excited to play with me again," said the native of Magnolia, Del. "We can start our rookie years off together."
Harmon flew a little under the radar in the midst of the talented Rutgers secondary and was projected to be drafted late, if at all. In fact, the TV networks were caught by surprise when the Patriots made him a third-round pick, to the point where they had no video of him to show when the selection was made.
"I had to laugh," he said. "My mother was very excited she said, 'where's your clips at?' I told her they probably didn't think I was going today so they didn't have any clips ready for me."
Harmon is highly regarded for his character and work ethic, and Patriots' coach Bill Belichick, having as close a relationship with the program as he does, would have been likely to see something that may have been passed over by others rating Harmon's draft-worthiness.
Harmon spoke to another former Scarlet Knight, Patriots' safety Devin McCourty, on the phone after he was drafted.
"He said he was eager to get me up there and eager to teach me what he knows." Harmon said.
Ryan, from Voorhees, N.J., said he also owed a lot to McCourty.
"The relationship that Devin and I have goes beyond words," he said. "He's a guy that helped me make the transition coming from being a talented high school player to becoming a college corner, and now for him to be there for this next step - I've grown up over the years - I'm not that 18-year-old boy anymore.
"To have the opportunity to compete alongside him in practice every day and the work ethic that he brings and the great leader that he is, I'm just honored to be able to play alongside him and be in the Patriots' organization," he added.
Ryan also gave due props to Harmon for pushing him to be a better player.
"We always would raise each other's level of game," he said. "He allowed me to play aggressive. When you have a great safety behind you - much like how Devin McCourty is for the Patriots - it allows your corners to play a lot more aggressive and that's something that Duron did. He is a great ball-hog in center field and helped us get a lot of turnovers."
Collins has the misfortune of playing for a team that went 0-12 last year, and he said that motivated him to be the best possible player he could be.
"It's motivation and adversity," said Collins, a native of McCall Creek, Miss. "Everybody has to deal with adversity. It's not just about losing every game and not being able to play hard. I felt like I had to play hard every game just because we were losing. I felt like it was going to draw a lot of attention to me to see how I played despite the fact that we were 0-12."
Collins shares the agent that represented Brett Favre for years (Bus Cook), so he has been able to share some quiet time fishing with the Hall of Fame-bound quarterback.
"It was pretty cool going out there with Brett Favre," Collins said. "He's a nice guy. I'm a big fisherman, coming from down here in the country. I just try to do stuff like that to keep me out of the streets or doing some other stuff. I just do stuff like that to keep me occupied. Fishing is one of my hobbies; I love fishing."
Dobson, meanwhile, has met Patriots Hall of Fame receiver Troy Brown when the latter has visited his old alma mater. And as an outstanding high school basketball player in West Virginia, he had a brief recruiting flirtation with Northeastern University.
"I went up there and visited Northeastern coming out of high school actually," he said. "I went there and visited the basketball team. I actually liked Boston, liked it up there, liked the school. But I just ended up leaning toward Marshall for football."
Although he struggled a little with injuries this past season, he still caught 57 passes for 679 yards and did not have a drop.
"I think I'm ready," he said. "It's definitely something that I've been getting prepared for just going through this whole process, doing what everyone tells me with the pressure of going into the league. I'm just going in focused and ready to start my new life with the Patriots and my new life in the NFL."