The New England Patriots are still on the hunt for athletic, hard-working players even in the secondary. They may be closing in on a guy who embodies those qualities.
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Patriots Bring in JT Hassell for a Second Look
The Patriots brought in Florida Tech safety JT Hassell for a tryout on Friday. It was the second time the Patriots have taken a look at the converted linebacker whose 5’11” 200-pound frame is better suited for safety in the NFL.
JT. Hassell and Ross Reynolds visiting Patriots
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) November 27, 2020
Whether it’s as a special teams contributor, depth at secondary, or a potentially excellent member of the practice squad, the Patriots clearly see something in Hassell they like because this makes the second time they have taken a look at him.
The first tryout was set for September. As ESPN’s Mike Reiss notes in the tweet below, Hassell played in six games for the Cleveland Browns last season after he was signed as an undrafted free agent.
The Patriots had DB J.T. Hassell (Florida Tech) in for COVID testing and an eventual tryout. Hassell (5-11, 200) played in six games for the Browns last season after initially signing with them as an undrafted free agent in 2019.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) September 23, 2020
The Browns released him earlier this year, and he has been waiting for another opportunity to play in the NFL.
What Makes Hassell Extraordinary
On pure athleticism, Hassell jumps off the page if you’re looking at his metrics. Per NFL Draft Scout, Hassell recorded a 4.4 40-Yard Dash, 23 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, a 42-inch vertical leap, and a 10-foot broad jump.
Those things are nice, but it’s not what truly sets Hassell apart. The 25-year-old was born with only two fingers on his left hand. It was caused by a birth defect that his mother described in an interview with ClevelandBrowns.com.
His whole body could have burst, and that’s when you have a miscarriage,” she said. “All of the blood vessels could have burst but only the one for his hand burst because I think God had a greater plan for him.
Hassell is accustomed to working harder than others to attain the same or better results, and he carries an admirable work ethic into everything he does. Draft Diamonds’ Damond Talbot wrote, “JT Hassell never quits, no matter what.”
Back when Hassell signed with the Browns, he talked about his journey, approach and faith:
Coming into here, I knew everything was against me. I had to transition to a whole new position and I’m learning free safety and strong safety at the same time. I have to work harder to make the team. Every day I get up early and stay late to do the most I can. At the end of the day, God’s plan will be God’s plan, whether it’s football or not.
It’s hard to imagine how having someone like this in your locker room, and on your team wouldn’t be positive.
How Hassell Could Help the Patriots
With his speed, size, and athleticism, Hassell would seemingly bring the kind of positional versatility the Patriots value at the safety position. He sounds a bit like a more athletic Patrick Chung, and perhaps even more similar to current Patriot Adrian Phillips.
Even if the Patriots signed him to be a special teamer, his grit, persistence and athleticism could make him an asset in that phase of the game as well.
In any case, it’ll be interesting to see if he can make the team and then an impact moving forward–even if that impact is felt more in 2021 than in 2020.