Ahead of the 2016 NFL Draft, quarterback Jacoby Brissett did not want his name to be called by the Patriots.
“I honestly did not want to be there,” Brissett told Devin and Jason McCourty Sunday night on an episode of the twins’ “Double Coverage” podcast. “When I took my visit there — my predraft visit — I was like, ‘Hell no. If one team drafts me, it better not be them.’ ”
Sure enough, much to Brissett’s dismay, the Patriots selected him out of North Carolina State with the 91st overall pick. Brissett was headed to New England to back up Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo.
“I’ll never forget, Josh [McDaniels] called me on the phone on draft night, and I didn’t have his number saved,” Brissett recalled. “That’s how bad it was. I didn’t even have his number saved in my phone. I was like, ‘Damn, man.’ ”
Once he arrived in Foxborough, Brissett quickly changed his tune. He credited Devin as well as a few former Patriots — defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, defensive end Anthony Johnson, and tight end Martellus Bennett — for creating a fun, welcoming environment.
“I’ve never been around so many older dudes that were so young, you know?” Brissett said. “One of the main things that I learned was just how to be a pro.
“We would laugh in the locker room and decompress when we’re not doing football stuff, but when we were in football — everybody thinks it’s like the military — we were locked and loaded. There was no game where we felt like, ‘Damn, this team might beat us.’ ”
As a rookie, Brissett became the first Black quarterback to start a game for the Patriots.
With Brady suspended the first four games of the season as a result of the Deflategate scandal, Garoppolo started in Weeks 1 and 2 before going down with a shoulder injury. Brissett took over in the second quarter of Week 2 and then started in Weeks 3 and 4.
In his three games with the Patriots that year, he completed 61.8 percent of his passes and threw for 400 yards.
The next season, Brissett saw action in three of New England’s four preseason games. In the preseason finale against the New York Giants, he completed 71.8 percent of his passes and threw for 341 yards and four touchdowns.
“I balled out,” he said. “I was like, ‘I know I’m making the team. It’s going to be hard for them to cut me.’ I really felt like I played my best game at that point, and I was playing my best football at that time throughout training camp and stuff.”
Little did Brissett know that he wouldn’t be on the roster for the season opener. The Patriots traded him to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett.
“I think Bill [Belichick] did some shady [expletive],” Brissett said, smiling. “I think they traded me right before practice and still made me go out there and practice.”
Brissett said he remembers the vibes at Gillette Stadium feeling off the day the trade happened.
“I’m walking down the hall, and everybody’s just staring at me like I just committed a crime or something,” Brissett recalled. “And then I’m looking at my locker and Tom is just sitting there with his head in his phone, and I’m like, ‘Damn, I hope that ain’t about me.’ It was crazy, man.
“My body was just frozen. I went and talked to Bill, and I didn’t even hear a word he said. In my head, I was like, ‘I don’t even know what traded means. Is that right now?’ And then as soon as I walked out of the room, they were like, ‘Yeah, we’ve got to get you on a flight tonight because you might have to play in the game Sunday.’ And I’m like, ‘What?’ I was like, ‘Hell no. I don’t even want to play yet. I don’t know where I’m going.’ ”
In the days following the trade, Brissett received text messages from both Devin McCourty and veteran Matthew Slater that reassured him about the situation. Brissett became the starting quarterback for the Colts that season, throwing for 3,098 yards and 13 touchdowns in 15 games.
“[Slater] was like, ‘Man, listen. You’re about to walk into some crazy times, but you’re built for this, and it’s part of the NFL,’ ” Brissett said. “Honestly, that was my wakeup to the NFL, was being traded and then the next week, you’re out there in a game. It was like, ‘We don’t care how long you’ve been here. You’d better know how to play.’ ”
Brissett and Brady now play for different teams, but the pair apparently still keep in touch. Brissett expressed appreciation that Brady still invited him to hang out at the Kentucky Derby — even after he was traded.
“We just became friends,” Brissett said. “You can text Tom and Tom responds like he’s your girlfriend.”