- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2005

David Patten should feel like he has it made. He has a lucrative $13million contract, three Super Bowl rings and a job as a starter in the NFL.

Yet the new Washington Redskins receiver hasn’t forgotten what he had to overcome to achieve his good fortune.

Ask Patten for a self scouting report and the first thing he cites isn’t his 18.2 yards per catch last season or his touchdown percentage (one for each 6.3 catches. Instead, Patten says emphatically, “No one will outwork me.”

That ethic wasn’t honed just on the field. Patten wasn’t drafted out of Western Carolina in 1995, so he worked as a landscaper, an electrician’s assistant and finally as a loader at a coffee bean factory in his native Columbia, S.C.

“No matter how much success I experience, I still have that underdog mentality,” said Patten, who will be 31 on Aug.19. “I lifted 75-pound coffee bean bags into trucks for $10 an hour. The job was so strenuous that I didn’t have the energy to work out afterwards. But after that experience, I ran the fastest 40 I’ve ever run [4.26].”

That speed earned Patten his first pro football paycheck, with the Albany Firebirds of the Arena League in 1996.

“When I first went to Arena ball, I told them guys, ‘Don’t get used to seeing me because I’m not going to be here long,’” Patten said. “I never stopped believing I would make it in the NFL. Arena ball made me a better player because it’s nothing but explosiveness and quickness. If you’re not quick, you can’t play Arena ball.”

Nine years later, Redskins receivers coach Stan Hixon calls Patten “Mr. Explosion” for his ability to accelerate.

“David gets off the ball so fast, he pushes the DBs back to create a cushion,” Hixon said. “If they don’t back up, he can run by them. If they do back up, he can catch the short pass, make the first guy miss and get upfield.”

Those yards after the catch were virtually absent from the Redskins’ offense last year, a failing that in part prompted the trade of receivers Laveranues Coles (10.6 average) and Rod Gardner (12.7) and the acquisition of Patten and Santana Moss (18.6).

While undoubtedly faster than their predecessors, Patten and Moss also are just 5-foot-10. That leads some to doubt whether the quarterbacks will be able to spot them, especially over the middle.

But Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell, who passed the Jacksonville Jaguars to two AFC Championship games with 6-1 receivers Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell, said height is overrated.

“Height doesn’t always equate to a good receiver. … Have you seen David with his shirt off?” Brunell said. “He’s so strong. David gets open. He has great hands. He’s fast. He’s smart. He knows what it takes to make big plays. David has the ability to be a big-time receiver.”

The New York Giants added Patten as a kickoff returner and backup receiver in 1997. He became a starter with the Cleveland Browns, a year removed from expansion, in 2000.

The following year, Patten moved to the cellar-dwelling New England Patriots. He finished first or second among their receivers in catches, yards and touchdowns in his three healthy seasons (he was hurt for most of 2003) and helped the Patriots become the fourth NFL team to win three titles in four years.

“I hope guys look at what we did in New England after being really down and see that we can have success here, too,” Patten said. “We have boatloads of talent, but we need to spread the mentality throughout the locker room that anything less than that is unacceptable.

“I never wear the rings because they’re too flashy, but I brought them here to show these guys what all the hard work in the offseason and training camp is about, what they’re fighting for.”

Patten’s long-running fight for recognition is over, but he still has that “I’ll show them” mentality.

“The commitment the Redskins made to me means a lot,” he said. “It’s something I had been working towards for eight years. I want them to feel like they got a steal. … If they feed me the ball, I see no reason why I won’t have 1,000 yards. Anything less than that, I’m going to be greatly disappointed.”

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