Oklahoma's Ronnie Perkins drafted by the New England Patriots

Bill Belichick added Sooner defensive end Ronnie Perkins to the fold, selecting him in the third round of the NFL Draft
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The New England Patriots seem thrilled about picking Oklahoma’s Ronnie Perkins on Friday with the 96th overall pick (No. 33 in the third round) of the NFL Draft.

And with good reason.

“He’s got a fire and passion to play football,” said Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley. “That’s one of the things we get asked the most is at the end of the day does this guy love football? Ronnie is one of those guys you can unequivocally say loves football. He loves every part of it.”

The 6-foot-2 1/2, 253-pound St. Louis native was an instant impact player from his first game after signing with the Sooners as a 247 Sports 4-star prospect out of Lutheran North High School.

A U.S. Army All-American and the No. 5 weakside defensive end and No. 57 overall prospect in the nation, according to 247 Sports, Perkins took official visits to OU, USC, Michigan and Texas, and ultimately picked the Sooners over offers from Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Iowa State, LSU, Miami, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Oregon, Penn State, TCU and Wisconsin, among others.

Perkins played in 14 games as a true freshman in 2018 and made eight tackles for loss and five quarterback sacks. He played in 12 games in 2019 and upped his numbers to 13.5 TFLs and six sacks. And last season, despite playing in just six games, Perkins became a constant disruptor who compiled 10.5 TFLs and 5.5 sacks.

In just 2 1/2 seasons, Perkins ranks 16th in school history with 16.5 quarterback sacks (No. 10 has 20.5) and also amassed 32 tackles for loss (No. 10 has 41).

The speed, power and explosion stands out, but so does Perkins’ relentless drive and non-stop motor. His energy and enthusiasm simply infects his teammates and raises their level.

“What I like,” former NFL head coach Jim Mora Jr. told SI Sooners, “is when he gets to the quarterback, he doesn’t just sack ‘em, he freaking rips through ‘em. You know? And teams value that type of tenacity. That’s what you want.”

Riley reminds that, although Perkins seemed to crank things up to another level after coming back from a six-game NCAA suspension at midseason last year, he’s always played that way.

“He’s been a tremendous player for us since the day he walked on the field (and) walked in the door,” Riley said. “He’s a natural football player. He’s not really a rep guy, he’s just good at everything you want him to do. He’s got really strong physical skills, a tremendous athlete.

“He loves to train, the process of practicing and improving, and the competitiveness — the better and more competitive the environment is, the more he rises his game up. He’s a tremendous football player that’s going to get a lot better. We’ve got a lot of great memories here.”