New England Patriots

DALLAS, TEXAS - OCTOBER 12: Ronnie Perkins #7 of the Oklahoma Sooners during the 2019 AT&T Red River Showdown at Cotton Bowl on October 12, 2019 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Third-round pick Ronnie Perkins is coming to New England on a mission.

Drafted by the Patriots with the No. 96 overall pick Friday night, Perkins described his influences as Willie McGinest and Dont’a Hightower, and even threw Stephon Gilmore in the mix for good measure. He also noted that Patriots fans are going to love him, and that he simply can’t wait to arrive to Foxborough and soak in the entire Patriot experience.

Now, whether or not Perkins can live up to those gigantic expectations remains to be seen. But one thing’s for sure: Bill Belichick and the Patriots were not scared off by the off-field issues that kept Perkins out of action for some of 2020.

Suspended for five games for a failed drug test (though Perkins later won a special appeal with the NCAA and had his suspension lifted), the Patriots’ digging clearly found nothing to give them second thoughts about their pick.

“We do that kind of background work and everything on every player,” said Belichick. “So, yeah, we’re comfortable with Ron.”

Perkins opted not to do a deep dive on the circumstances of that suspension, and instead focused on the lessons learned from a late start to a 2020 season that included 24 tackles and 5.5 sacks in six games, along with Second Team All-Big 12 honors.

“Really just going through some stuff, went through some off-the-field things that I really just had to get figured out as a person,” Perkins said of his suspension. “Dealing with some off-the-field stuff that kind of affected me on the field. So really just taking the whole situation and learning from it and taking it into this draft process and learning from that situation. Just becoming an NFL player, learning not to make that mistake again and learning how to deal with that off-the-field issue.”

The Patriots certainly seemed to focus on Perkins’ potential on-field impact more than the suspension, too, though they had an interest in Perkins the person, as revealed by the 6-foot-3, 253-pound edge rusher.

“Honestly, really the most they wanted to know was about my personal life, my home life, [and] how I grew up,” Perkins, a St. Louis native and St. Louis Post-Dispatch All-Metro football defensive player of the year in 2017, said of his talks with the Patriots. “They were really just concerned about that and getting to know me as a person, like from the ground up.”

And they clearly liked what they heard. But more importantly, liked what they saw from his Oklahoma run.

“If you watch him play, you get a number of opportunities to evaluate his playing strengths, especially against bigger people,” said Belichick. “His toughness, his effort, his instinctiveness. He’s a versatile player that is productive in the running game, he’s been productive in the passing game, he is instinctive on plays like screens and reverses and things like that. He has a pretty good just nose for the ball and he’s a tough player. He’s tough and he’s physical, he has a good playing style.”

All of which makes him seem like a definite fit for his mission to be loved by New England fans.

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Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.