You look at Xavier Su'a-Filo, and physically he resembles a young Tedy Bruschi. Then he starts to talk, and he sounds just like a New England Patriots player, or at least someone who has studied the team for a while.
"Whatever team takes me, they won't regret it," said Su'a-Filo, the draft's top offensive guard prospect from UCLA, while visiting the NFL Network studios Wednesday. "I know that's the line Tom Brady told Mr. Kraft when he was drafted, but it's true."
Su'a-Filo's offensive line coach at UCLA, Adrian Klemm, was a second-round pick of the Patriots in 2000 and won three NFL championships in five seasons in New England. By now, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Patriots left guard Logan Mankins is the player Su'a-Filo has watched closely for a long time.
"I grew up watching Logan play," said Su'a-Filo, who had the exact same combine measurements (6-foot-4, 307 pounds) as Mankins did in 2005. "He was a left tackle just like me, but he played there all through college, and as soon as he got to training camp with the Patriots they put him at left guard. He took that position and has held it down for nine years. He's been a six-time Pro Bowler and five-time all-pro.
"If you watch how the guy plays, he's just so smooth. He's big, he's strong and he's mean. When he gets there, he gets there in a hurry, and he tries to punish people. Coach Belichick, who's very well respected in the league, once said, 'There's tough guys in the league, and there are legit tough guys, and Logan Mankins is in the latter category.' To me he is what a prototypical guard should look like, play like and should act like. I've heard that off the field he's very soft-spoken, very chill guy from Central California. But on the field when it's time to go, he's going to punish you."
Many have compared Su'a-Filo similarly. Off the field, he's an Eagle Scout and a practicing Mormon who went on a two-year mission that interrupted his college career. He's soft-spoken. But on the field, he'll tear your head off, maul you into submission.
Like most Patriots, his priorities seem to be in order, too.
"I want to win," he said. "I'm a winner. I won in high school. I won (at UCLA) when I came back from my mission with Coach (Jim) Mora. I want to go on a team with a rich O-line tradition, a team known for hard-nosed O-linemen -- New England, Baltimore, New York.
"First, I want team success; I want to win. I want to play in the NFL, I want to start. I want to play a long time, and I want to make it to the Hall of Fame. I want to be great. I don't want to be just a guy who was a good player in the NFL; I want to be considered one of the best of all-time."
Teams at the back end of the first round and the beginning of the second, where Su'a-Filo is projected to go in the draft, have paid the most attention to him. The Falcons, Panthers and Rams have worked him out in Los Angeles, and he's visited the Chargers, Ravens, Browns and Broncos.
Conspicuously absent are the Patriots, who have a need at right guard. It doesn't seem right that he wouldn't end up in New England, but teams have been known to not show their hand before the draft, completely ignoring prospects they eventually take. (See Broncos and Jay Cutler.)
That could be the case for Su'a-Filo and the Patriots.
"I wouldn't mind playing for them one bit," he said. "They're a great organization, and I love watching them."
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