Seconds ticked away in an improbable Super Bowl. The New England Patriots were the last team with the ball against the St. Louis Rams.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady didn’t look to Troy Brown first, or David Patten, but to California native running back J.R. Redmond. He wasn’t nervous, he just went through the procedure.
“We practiced situational football and [Bill] Belichick is big on that,” Redmond said. “Every practice, there was a different situation that he’s seen throughout the weeks of the NFL, he had us trained in those scenarios so when we had to do them, we understood how to do them.”
Redmond’s journey to that final drive began in Carson, California with his sister and her boyfriend at the time.
“I was outside playing with the Gentlemen that she was dating’s younger brother,” Redmond said. “He’s a big kid and I ran and actually knocked the crap out of him and his father was pulling up in the driveway and he asked me ‘Do you wanna play football?'”
Redmond started his football career playing a different position every quarter.
“The first quarter I would be where I was needed,” Redmond said. “The second, third quarter I would be at whatever position I was needed, and the fourth quarter I would go back to the position I was needed at to finish the game from tackle, to tight end, wide receiver it didn’t matter.”
Redmond took to safety the most, more so than the position he would be known for as a running back.
By the time he was at Arizona State, he was carrying the ball better than most in the country. His 3,299 rushing yards puts him at No.26 all-time in the Pac-10 in yards, and No.3 in school history as well as earning Heisman Trophy and Doak Walker Award nominations.
“I do come across people [from that era] and the first thing they say is ‘Man you was a beast in college,'” Redmond said. “I know that my college career was way better than my NFL career and that registers especially when I go back to ASU.”
Redmond went to the NFL Scouting Combine in preparation for the Draft but did not participate. Redmond in his auditions for teams wanted scouts to see his versatility shine through the most.
The Arizona State alum’s phone rang in the second round of the 2000 NFL Draft with Belichick and the Patriots on the line. All Redmond could reply with was a question.
“Where is New England,” Redmond asked Belichick. “Where is that at, I didn’t know where that was, I knew about the 50 states but I didn’t know New England was an area not a state.”
All Redmond could remember in his rookie season coming from hot California, was how constant cold weather was on the East Coast.
“My first year in New England I just remember it being cold all of the time,” Redmond said. “That Summer, it was freezing and I don’t think it ever went over 60 degrees that Summer, it was just a total contrast from comin’ out of 110 degree weather.”
Redmond got comfortable by his second year and just when they thought they had all the pieces in place, quarterback Drew Bledsoe went down.
While Redmond thought Brady was a cool person, he wasn’t as flashy when it came to athleticism.
“[He was] probably one of the worst athletes I had ever seen in my life and still is,” Redmond said about Brady. “[But] he was a hard worker, his biggest talent is his ability to prepare.”
When it came to that final drive, Redmond stood on the sideline waiting for his time to take the field. One moment was all he wanted.
“I didn’t have many snaps [in the Super Bowl] and I prayed on the sideline for God to give me an opportunity to just make one difference in the game,” Redmond said. “He waited ’till the last minute and he let me make three, to allow to me to make several plays in that game was just a blessing.”
Today he and the other running backs Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk maintain their friendship. When it came time to return to New England for a signing, Redmond was taken away by how many people remembered him and his impact on the Patriots’ success.
“It was an alumni event and it was a last minute thing when I came so I wasn’t on the list of people that would be there,” Redmond said. “So to see how long that line was and all the people, it was just amazing I never thought people cared that much, it was an amazing feeling to know the time that I spent [in New England] that I have some fans, I was surprised by that.”
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