A historical look at the uniform numbers for the new Patriots: #44, Darius Fleming
Here is the fifteenth in a series of historical perspectives on who has previously worn the uniform number of the 2014 additions to the roster of the New England Patriots. Unless noted otherwise all the players listed took part in at least one regular or playoff game in the season listed for the Patriots.
Darius Fleming is the latest members of the Pats to don the number 44. Below is a look at those who have preceded them to wear that jersey over the years during the franchise history of the Patriots, highlighted by running back Don Calhoun.
44 – Linebacker Darius Fleming
– Drafted out of Notre Dame in the fifth round in 2012 by San Francisco, Fleming missed two full seasons due to two injuries to his left knee. The Patriots signed him on May 16 and if he remains healthy, could be a valuable playmaker in situational roles.
2014 off-season: TE Terrence Miller
Miller was one of three tight ends signed by the Patriots on August 10, and was waived/injured three days later. After clearing waivers he was placed on injured reserve. The 6’4″ 234 pound tight end was originally signed by the Jets right after the draft, an was released a month later. Miller had 95 catches for 1,117 yards during his college career at Arizona.
2014 off-season: TE Tyler Beck
– Beck was an undrafted free agent from Bowling Green known for his blocking skills; he caught only ten passes as a senior. He was released on May 15, prior to the start of OTAs.
2013: TE Zach Sudfeld
– The undrafted free agent became a fan favorite during OTAs and training camp with his exceptional play, but that was short lived. The 6’7″ 253 pond product from Nevada-Reno was simply not as good once the pads were on, and a dropped ball that resulted in an interception eventually led to his being released. In three real games with the Patriots he had zero receptions, but was quickly picked up by the Jets. As a rookie he had five catches for 63 yards with Gang Green, and this summer is competing for a starting position there.
2011-12 off-season and practice squad: FB Eric Kettani
– The 5’9″ 240 pound back was one of three players from Navy that the Patriots signed as undrafted free agents in May of 2009. They had to fulfill their military commitments first, and Kettani was activated from the Reserve/Military list in May of 2011. He was released as part of the final camp cuts in September, but signed to the practice squad after clearing waivers.
In October he was denied leave from the Navy and had to return to active duty, but the Patriots re-signed him the following spring. Kettani was then cut again at the end of camp in 2012. The Pats added him to the practice squad on September 1, but released him four days later to make room for OL Jeremiah Warren. Kettani later spent time on the practice squads of Washington and Kansas City, and on August 20, 2014 was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
2011: S James Ihedigbo
– The UMass alum caught the eye of Bill Belichick with his special teams performance while with the Jets from 2008-10. The Pats picked him up after he was cut during training camp in 2011, and due to injuries he ended up playing a lot of defense in addition to special teams. He appeared in all 16 games with 12 starts, recording 72 tackles (50 solo) and one pass breakup. Ihedigbo also started all three playoff games, registering another 20 tackles.
As a position player with the Pats he seemed to be a bit overmatched, but Ihedigbo has gone on to play safety for Baltimore, totaling 12 passes defensed and three interceptions over the last two seasons.
2010: S Jarrad Page
– A seventh round pick by Kansas City in 2006, page was acquired by the Patriots on September 5, 2010 in exchange for a seventh round 2012 draft pick. He played in ten games with one start at safety with two interceptions, 13 tackles, two passes defensed and six special teams tackles. After starting 37 games with the Chiefs, his contribution was a bit of a letdown. Page spent 2011 with Minnesota and Philadelphia, then in 2012 quit football to become a major league baseball player.
2005-08: FB Heath Evans
– Originally drafted in the third round by Seattle in 2001, Evans’ career appeared to be over when Miami released him in 2005. The Patriots signed him and he played every game for the Pats over the next three and a half seasons, then played two more years with New Orleans. Evans was a reserve at fullback and a core special teams player, appearing in 53 games with the Pats. Evans had 677 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns with the Patriots, and played in 143 NFL games, plus nine playoff games. Evans has since gone on to become a respected analyst on Fox and the NFL Network.
2003: FB Fred McCrary
– McCrary was 31 years old when the Patriots signed him, coming off four years as the blocking back opening up running lanes for LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego. With the Patriots he appeared in only six games in a limited role in the New England offense. McCrary went on to play four more seasons with Atlanta and Seattle; he appeared in 128 games over 11 seasons in his NFL career.
2001-02: FB Marc Edwards
– The Notre Dame graduate was a second round pick by San Francisco in 1997, an spent two years with the 49ers and two with the Browns before signing as a free agent with the Patriots in 2001. His best trait was blocking and opening up holes for Antowain Smith, but he also added 599 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in his two seasons with the Patriots. Edwards later played for Jacksonville and Chicago, appearing in 132 games over his nine-year NFL career.
1998-2000: RB Harold Shaw
– A sixth round draft pick from Southern Miss, Shaw was a special teams ace who saw very little action on offense. In three seasons he had 18 carries for 35 yards and four catches for 42 yards, with no touchdowns.
1994: RB Marion Butts
– The big (6’1″, 250) back was a two-time Pro Bowler with San Diego, who came to the Patriots with high expectations. Problem was that even though he was only 28, Butts was pretty much done. Though he rushed for 703 yards and eight touchdowns, he averaged a mere 2.9 yards per carry in his only season with the Patriots.
1988-92: RB John Stephens
– The 17th pick out of NW Louisiana State got off to a great start with the Patriots, rushing for 1,168 yards. Stephens was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year and went to the Pro Bowl, but that turned out to be the pinnacle of his career. Stephens rushed for 833 yards in ’89 and 808 in ’90, but injuries and wear and tear (753 carries in his first three seasons) took their toll. In ’91 Leonard Russell took over as the feature back, and Stephens averaged just 2.6 yards per carry. He spent one more year with the Pats, then finished his NFL career in ’93 with Green Bay and Kansas City.
Stephens rushed for 3,249 yards in his five years in New England, seventh most in club history. His 891 carries is the fifth most, and his 17 rushing touchdowns ranks 13th; the 1,168 yards rushing in 1988 is the seventh highest in a single season in team history.
After his career was over Stephens made news for the wrong reasons, as he was convicted on a sexual assault charge in 1996. His daughter Sloane has gone on to become a highly ranked professional tennis player, but he never got to witness that success; Stephens died in a car crash in 2009 at the age of 43.
1987: TE Todd Frain
– Frain was a replacement player during the 1987 strike; in two starts he had two receptions for 22 yards.
1984: KR/RB Jon Williams
– Williams had a tough childhood, with his father in prison on a murder charge when he was eight years old, and growing up in a neighborhood full of drugs and violence. He somehow persevered, got a scholarship and was a member of the national championship team at Penn State.
The Patriots selected Williams in the third round with the 70th pick of the 1984 draft, but after nine games he suffered a career-ending knee injury. He overcame that adversity by having a productive career in sales with FedEx, while drawing on his experiences to council and mentor at-risk youths.
1982: RB Larry Cowan
– A seventh round draft pick by Miami, Cowan lasted just one season in the NFL. In six games with the Patriots he had no stats.
1975-81: RB Don Calhoun
– After being waived by Buffalo, the Patriots signed Calhoun late in the 1975 season. Over the years his combination of quickness and strength allowed him to be productive at both halfback and fullback, a valuable asset on some of those great rushing teams from the Fairbanks era. At one point Calhoun ranked third all-time in club history in rushing yardage, and his 3,391 yards is still sixth most in franchise history. Calhoun also ranks eighth with 23 rushing touchdowns, seventh with 4.1 yards per carry, seventh with 820 carries, and eighth with 23 rushing touchdowns.
1975: RB Doug Dressler
– Acquired on September 8, 1975 from Cincinnati in exchange for a 1976 7th round draft pick, Dressler appeared in five games with three rushes for eight yards and one reception for a loss of one yard. The Cal-State Chico product spent five years in the NFL, appearing in 68 games with the Bengals, Patriots and Chiefs.
1969-72: CB John Outlaw
– A tenth round pick out of Jackson State, Outlaw had three interceptions, a pick-six and a fumble recovery in 1971. He then spent six seasons with the Eagles, and then was the defensive coordinator at North Carolina Central University for 11 years. Outlaw then switched sports: since 1990 he has been an assistant coach in the NBA with Denver, Washington and Charlotte.
1965-67: DB White Graves
– Graves was taken by the Patriots in the 17th round, 135th overall, in the 1965 AFL draft. In three seasons with the Patriots he appeared in 40 games, and had three interceptions. The Cincinnati picked him up in the 1968 expansion draft, and he played with the Bengals for one season.
1960-61: RB Gerhard Schwedes
– When the AFL formed, the eight owners agreed to have a consensus regional player go to each team. With no decent college teams in New England at that time, the Patriots ended up with Schwedes – and he therefore is the answer to the trivia question of who was the first player drafted in the history of the Patriots franchise.
An All-American and captain on Syracuse’s 1959 championship team, the German-born Schwedes did not have much of a pro football career. The Pats traded him to the Titans before the season began, then re-signed him in mid-season. In seven games over two seasons with the Patriots, Schwedes rushed for 14 yards on ten carries and had one reception for 21 yards.
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