Ever since future Hall of Famer Randy Moss unceremoniously left town, the New England Patriots have struggled to find a wide receiver who could get the job done on the outside with consistency.
During his team’s quest for its fourth Lombardi Trophy, WR Brandon LaFell appeared to step up and take the reins as the season wore on. He has since become the reliable target the Patriots have been lacking out wide the past few seasons.
Here’s what you need to know about QB Tom Brady’s new favorite toy:
1. LaFell Attended Louisiana State University
After recording a team-leading 656 yards and averaging 13.1 yards per reception in nine starts his second year at LSU, LaFell had a monster junior season. Not only did he haul in 61 receptions for 903 yards and eight scores, but he also earned First-Team All-SEC honors from the Associated Press.
2. LaFell was Drafted by the Panthers
Following his solid collegiate career, LaFell, considered to be one of the top receiver prospects in the country, was selected by the Carolina Panthers in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
In his four seasons with Carolina, LaFell picked up 2,385 receiving yards and crossed the goal line 13 times. He also broke the record for longest play in team history with this impressive 91-yard catch-and-run in 2011.
3. LaFell has Earned Tom Brady’s Respect
After four seasons with the Panthers, LaFell signed on with the Patriots as a free agent and has never looked back. Tom Brady developed a chemistry with his new wide receiver early on, and LaFell responded with his finest professional year to date, recording 953 yards and seven scores on 74 receptions.
New England’s quarterback even went so far as to call LaFell the toughest teammate he has ever played with — certainly high praise from someone who played on teams that won three Super Bowls in four years.
4. LaFell is No Stranger to Big Games
When it comes to playing on the biggest stage with the whole nation watching, Super Bowl XLIX won’t be LaFell’s first rodeo. In 2007, his LSU Tigers advanced to the BCS National Championship and defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes 38-24.
While LaFell only had two catches for 15 yards in that game, he did find the end zone once and helped his team come away with the victory.
5. LaFell Does a Lot of Work in the Community
Using his pedestal as a professional athlete as a means to give back, the wide receiver founded the LaFell Group, a non-profit “committed to empowering, enriching and creating educational experiences” for members of the community, in 2010.