Pats' Arrington could be Hofstra's last NFLer

Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington could be the last Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington could be the last player left in the NFL to play college football at Hofstra. (Dec. 19, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Tom Brady punctuated his Wednesday news conference with an endorsement of Michigan's newest head coach. "Go Blue!" he said at the end.

Patriots defensive backs Patrick Chung, who went to Oregon, and Jonathan Wilhite, who went to Auburn, traded some good-natured barbs in the days leading up to the national title game between their two alma maters.

In an NFL locker room, players' allegiances to their college programs are strong. Whether it's a big-time SEC or Big Ten school they came from or one of the little guys like FCS Appalachian State or Division II Chadron State, the pros keep close tabs on how their schools are doing. The Patriots are no different.

But when the talk turns to how your old team did this past Saturday, or how the recruiting is going there, or even what's going on with the coaching staff, Kyle Arrington has nothing to add.

The Patriots' starting cornerback played his college ball at Hofstra. And Hofstra no longer has a football program.

"It's difficult," Arrington said. "Every time during the season when someone would come up and jokingly ask, 'Who's Hofstra playing this week?' I would just say it's our bye week."

So much for pride in the Pride. Hofstra shuttered its program after the 2009 season, citing funding difficulties and lack of student interest.

Arrington is sort of the Last of the Mohicans for a Hofstra program that produced some NFL stars - Wayne Chrebet, Mar- ques Colston, Lance Schulters - and more than a handful of serviceable players. There are five from the school currently on NFL rosters. But unless the program is reinstated, Arrington will be the final player to make the jump from Hempstead Turnpike to the big time.

Arrington said when he attended Hofstra he sometimes would drop by and watch Jets training camp practices. He would watch Curtis Martin and Laveranues Coles. "I couldn't believe I was like 15 feet away from him," he said.

He also recalled watching a rookie cornerback named Darrelle Revis.

"He wasn't as big at the time," Arrington said. "He didn't have the Island yet."

After Hofstra, Arrington, who wasn't drafted, landed briefly on the Eagles' practice squad before spending the rest of the 2008 season on the Buccaneers' practice squad (where fellow Hofstra product and current Bucs head coach Raheem Morris was his position coach).

He played one game for the Bucs in 2009 before being waived and picked up by the Patriots for their practice squad. By November of last season he was on the 53-man roster. And this season, after Darius Butler lost his job in the Week 2 game against the Jets, Arrington became a starter.

Bill Belichick made it sound as if Arrington could have been playing at that level even earlier in his career.

"This year he had the chance to start participating in a lot of quality defensive snaps early on and was very competitive at the position," Belichick said. "He turned that into playing time and turned those playing time opportunities into a good, solid season. That's kind of the way that worked. Had he been here at the beginning of the season in '09, who knows?"

Arrington has been overshadowed a bit by rookie Devin McCourty, a first-round pick out of Rutgers who starts at the opposite corner position and is headed for the Pro Bowl. But Arrington has had a good season with 67 tackles, five passes defensed and an interception he returned 36 yards for a touchdown in a prime-time game against the Packers last month.

He has a reputation as the Patriots' most physical cornerback and has contributed on special teams as well; he also scored on a blocked field goal against the Dolphins in October.

"It opens a few eyes, but as far as me being on the map I'm not really too concerned about that," he said of his opportunities with the Patriots. "My goal is like everybody else's. To get to February."

And in that way, he can carry a little bit of Hofstra along with him.

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