- - Tuesday, January 31, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS — The first time Kyle Arrington remembers seeing a football, he was less than enthused. That was in elementary school.

“Soccer was actually the first sport I played,” said Arrington. “I loved it. I remember when people first started playing football. All we would play for recess was soccer so when someone brought a football one day and they were throwing it around I was like ‘What are you people doing? Football sucks. Who wants to play football?’ “

For someone who didn’t take to the game right away Arrington, an Accokeek native and graduate of Gwynn Park High School, is one victory away from hoisting the game’s biggest prize, the Lombardi Trophy.

Arrington is a starting cornerback for the AFC champion New England Patriots, a third-year player who entered the league with Philadelphia as an undrafted college free agent out of Hofstra. He didn’t stick with the Eagles or with Tampa Bay, but with the Patriots this season he tied for the NFL lead with seven interceptions and helped New England reach Super Bowl XLVI against the New York Giants.

“I’m a firm believer in when one door closes another one opens. You never stop striving and working for what you want in life no matter what profession or craft you do,” Arrington said Tuesday during Super Bowl Media Day. “Whenever you’re out there playing you’re putting on an audition for 31 other teams no matter who you are playing for. The Patriots liked what they saw in me and felt they could utilize me in certain situations and areas. That makes me blessed and thankful for the opportunity.”

Arrington might not feel quite the same Sunday night if the Patriots can’t find a way to slow down New York quarterback Eli Manning and a passing attack that features three dangerous wide receivers in Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham. The trio has combined for 43 receptions, 695 yards and seven touchdowns this postseason.

“It’s just our offensive scheme,” said Nicks, who leads the Giants with 18 catches, 335 yards and four touchdowns in the playoffs. “We don’t have one guy that we focus on for our offense. We’ve got guys that are capable of making plays all over the field. That’s what we focus on.”

Arrington had one of his interceptions this season against Manning on Nov. 6. It wasn’t enough to keep the Patriots from losing 24-20 and falling to 5-3 on the season. They haven’t lost since.

Arrington left the AFC championship game against Baltimore with an eye injury, but he has recovered and is expected to resume his normal role in the secondary. He isn’t the first player who began his NFL career in obscurity only to find success in New England. It’s part of why the Patriots are playing in their fifth Super Bowl in the past 11 seasons.

“[Coach Bill Belichick]’s not going to show any favoritism,” said Arrington. “Whoever, especially during training camp, plays and does the most and is the most deserving to be on the team is going to be on the team. It doesn’t matter who you are or what round you were picked or what contract you have. He’s all about the team, and he’s going to make the best decision for the team.”

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