FOXBORO - Now the Patriots have two rocket scientists in-house.
Fourth-round draft pick Cameron Fleming, the offensive tackle from Stanford, graduated from the prestigious West Coast school with a degree in aeronautics and astronautics. He'll have plenty to talk about with Matt Patricia, the Patriots' defensive coordinator, who graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a degree in aeronautical engineering.
"We'd probably just nerd out a little bit," Fleming said via conference call with the New England media Saturday afternoon. "We'd talk about whatever new planes - I'm a big plane guy. The astronautics I like a lot, but I'm more interested in planes and jet planes and things like.
"If he's into that, we can just talk all day," he said.
Fleming, at 6-foot-6 and 318 pounds, won't he heading to the International Space Station any time soon; he's an inch too tall to meet NASA's physical requirements for astronaut candidates.
"You have to be able to sit in the plane," Fleming said. "Have you ever seen a seven-foot person in the cockpit?"
Fleming said that regardless of what his future may hold in aeronautics, he'll give it his best effort - just as he will as a tackle for the Patriots.
"If I was going to go down that route I would have given it my all," he said. "Now I'm going down the NFL route and playing with the Patriots and I'm just going to give it my all. I don't think there's any one that's more difficult than the other."
Florida offensive guard Jon Halapio, taken with the 179th overall pick, is well-acquainted with the Patriots' first-round selection, defensive end Dominique Easley. The two battled across the line from each other every day in practice in Gainesville.
"He makes me a lot better as a football player," Halapio said of his fellow Gator. "He's a very talented dude and we are both excited to contribute to the Patriots. We are coming in humbled; we are very coachable, so we're ready to be coached and pay our respects and dues to the team and contribute."
Halapio called Easley "a relentless player, nothing that the Patriots don't already know about him." But the same could be said about Halapio, a 6-foot-3, 320-pound native of St. Petersburg, Fla.; he played through an 80-percent pectoral tear in his final year at Florida.
"It was very difficult but I just love football," he said. "When you're in the football game you're just filled with adrenaline at the time so you don't really feel the pain that much. I'm just very excited right now to just come up there and contribute fully healthy."
He's a first
Zach Moore had a special distinction Saturday. The defensive end from Chicago became the first player from Concordia University of St. Paul, Minn., to be drafted by an NFL team when the Patriots made him the 198th selection overall.
"I was very honored," Moore said. "The Patriot organization is a well-oiled, classy organization. I'm happy to be a Patriot and ready to get to work playing football."
Concordia is a Division II school, and Moore may be one of those rare gems that stands out despite the level of his competition. He was dazzling at the Scouting Combine workouts in Indianapolis and certainly looks the part, but he knows he'll have to devote himself fully to the task of catching up with fellow rookies that hail from larger schools.
"There's always something to prove," he said. "Even if I wasn't a Division II football player, I'd always have a chip on my shoulder and I'd always be a competitor."
Moore was a two-time captain at Concordia, another trait that fits in well with what the Patriots covet in their newcomers.
"The way I carry myself as a person, I think it fits the Patriot Way," he said.