Safety Jordan Richards is hoping to continue his education when he leaves Stanford to play for Bill Belichick and the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
"I just want to learn and I'm going to go there and try and be a sponge and soak up as much as I can," he said on Friday night after the Patriots selected him with the last pick in the second round of the NFL draft. "My goal is just to be a sponge and absorb, absorb, absorb."
The 5-foot-11, 211-pound defensive back was a first-team All-Pac 12 safety and a team captain as a senior who started every game for the Cardinal the past three seasons. He was projected as a sixth- or seventh-round pick, according to NFL.com, in part because of poor performance on some of the jumping tests at the combine.
But Richards' smarts and knowledge of the game-plan - his teammates called him "Coach Richards" - could make him a good fit for the cerebral Belichick.
"I think I'm a smart player," he told reporters in a conference call shortly after he was drafted.
Richards said he watched some of the first round on TV, but was in a car with his parents to visit his sister. He was following the draft on the radio when he was selected.
A native of Folsom, California, Richards also played wide receiver in high school. He had nine interceptions in his three years as a starter, and also forced five fumbles.
"He's a smart, instinctive football player," Belichick said.
The Patriots went into Friday night with back-to-back picks with their regular selection at No. 96 and then a compensatory pick for losing Aqib Talib as a free agent.
They traded the first one to the Cleveland Browns, then picked Geneo Grissom, a 6-foot-3, 262-pound defensive lineman from Oklahoma who also played some linebacker and tight end.
"We're not trying to turn him into a tight end," Belichick said. "If you didn't know he didn't play tight end, you'd say that was a pretty good workout for a tight end."
In exchange for the 96th pick and the Patriots' seventh-round pick , the Browns gave New England picks in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.
"Seven picks for tomorrow, kind of spaced pretty evenly throughout the rounds," Belichick said.
The Patriots picked Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown in the first round on Thursday. The 319-pound Brown gives New England a potential successor to five-time Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork, who went to Houston as a free agent.
Richards could help in a defensive backfield that lost cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner to free agency. The Folsom, California, native, whose father grew up in the Boston suburb of Natick and played football at Tufts, said he didn't grow up a Patriots fan.
"Shoot, I can change now," he said.