Terrance Knighton may be more familiar with the history of the Patriots franchise than most new signees who step into Gillette Stadium for the first time. Born in Hartford, Conn. and a Windsor High alum, Knighton grew up admiring all four major professional sports teams in the area, including coach Bill Belichick's Patriots.
Now, after signing a one-year deal with the team, the 29-year-old defensive tackle has a chance to make a mark on the franchise he watched growing up.
"Being a big fan of guys like Vince Wilfork, Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi, just those leaders on defense," Knighton said during a conference call with reporters. "Guys that have won games and won Super Bowls -- Rodney Harrison -- guys that were great leaders on and off the field, and were role models for me growing up and guys who I modeled myself after on the field, like a Vince Wilfork.
"Obviously it's big shoes to fill, and me being a big guy . . . people will look for me to be like a Wilfork replacement, but I'm not thinking about thhat. I'm just going to come in and work hard everyday, and just try to create my own niche in the organization."
Knighton had a chance to hang out with Wilfork recently at the wedding of Broncos corner Aqib Talib. He said the two recently had a long conversation about what it meant to play for the Patriots organization, and eventually Knighton decided it was the place for him.
"He was telling me it's a grind, but at the end of the day, it's football," Knighton said. "But it's a good environment to be around, it's a good building to be in. He had nothing but good things to say about the organization. I'm just excited, and I'm just looking forward to getting in the building and learning as much football as I can and being around the guys."
As a free agent, Knighton received some interest from his former team in Washington, but ultimately the Patriots had too much to offer for him to pass on the chance to return to this region.
"I just followed my heart," Knighton said, "and my heart told me to go to New England . . . I just felt like it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play for a team that obviously I loved watching play growing up."
The Patriots offseason program begins in just under two weeks, and the 6-foot-3 behemoth -- who said he has lost weight since he checked in at about 350 pounds last season -- explained that he is looking forward to getting to work.
"It all starts in April, and it starts for us April 18 with the hard work that we put in during OTAs, during camp," he said. "This is obviously a team that doesnt just believe in showing up on Sundays."
Spoken like a man who has watched the Patriots from afar for quite some time.