The NFL Draft is set to begin Thursday, and the Patriots will be attempting to continue the tradition of winning the organization has built over the past 20 years.
The current quarterbacks for the Patriots are Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer. Missing from New England is football icon Tom Brady, who was allowed to leave via free agency this offseason and sign with the Buccaneers.
A Patriots team without Brady will be a strange sight for football fans, especially for WWE’s Kofi Kingston, but it will be even harder to see Brady don a red, orange, and pewter jersey for the Buccaneers.
“It makes me sick to my stomach,” said Kingston, who is one-third of WWE’s SmackDown tag team champions The New Day. “I wish him the best of luck, I’ll never root against him, but I don’t want to see him in a Bucs jersey.”
The 38-year-old Kingston was born in Ghana but grew up right outside of Boston and attended Boston College in Chestnut Hill. Though he is young enough to have missed the Patriots’ most abysmal years, he witnessed Brady help transform a franchise known for its futility into the premiere franchise in all of sports.
“Honestly, from elementary school all the way up until now, I’ve seen nothing but championships,” said Kingston. “Some fans, their teams don’t even sniff the playoffs. Kansas City hadn’t won the Super Bowl in 50 years. To see your football team go to nine Super Bowls? And win six? Come on, man, I can’t complain about that. And then you get to the Red Sox and the Celtics and the Bruins, I’ve seen championships in all of these sports.”
Over the past two decades, the Patriots ability to win high-pressure football games was as reliable as low tide. Many different players contributed to the team’s success, but a constant presence was Brady under center.
Just over a month ago, Brady announced on Instagram that he was leaving the Patriots, which was soon followed by the news that he was taking his talents to Tampa Bay.
“I woke up that day to a slew of texts with everyone saying, ‘Brady’s not going to sign!’” said Kingston. “Then I went on to Instagram and saw the post where he thanked New England and I thought, ‘No, this can’t be.’ I literally laid in bed for like 45 minutes. I couldn’t get out of bed. I wanted to wake up from this dream. Why couldn’t they work it out? Then we found out later that day that he signed with the Bucs of all teams.
“I mean, I get it. Tom Brady is the ultimate competitor, and that’s what drives him—going out and trying to be the best. But it breaks my heart that he left New England. Part of me was hoping he’d rip up the contract and resign with New England.”
This draft is pivotal for the Patriots, who have 12 picks, which is tied for the second most, and a number of gaping holes to fill. Despite the brilliant leadership of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who was the JJ Dillon to Tom Brady’s Ric Flair-like success in New England, the Patriots have yet to pluck a single Pro Bowler in the draft since 2013.
Exacerbating Patriots’ fans grief was the trade of Rob Gronkowski—who is still WWE’s reigning 24/7 champion—to the Bucs this week for a fourth-round draft pick.
“At the end of the day, I feel like I’ve been so spoiled, a lot of the fans of Boston sports have been so spoiled,” said Kingston. “I’m just trying to focus on the good times. It will be interesting to see how Tom does in Tampa Bay. He’s got some weapons there, so I guess we’ll see together. But it just doesn’t sit well with me, I don’t think it will ever sit well with me—not seeing Tom Brady in a New England Patriots jersey.”