While the Patriots free agent departures have made plenty of headlines this offseason - there was a certain quarterback you may remember drew plenty of attention - an interesting free agent addition was introduced to the New England media on Wednesday.
Linebacker Brandon Copeland, 28, who spent the past two seasons with the New York Jets, said on a conference call that he's all about making a mark on and off the field.
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“I just want to leave my mark on everyone I come into contact with. Whether that’s the player next to me, the player opposite of me on offense, the chef, the janitor, Copeland said. "I’ve been fortunate to personally leave a positive mark anywhere I go. For me, that is the most important thing. When I step on the field, you know you’re going to get my all."
That kind of attitude has helped him rise from an undrafted free agent out of Ivy League Penn to preparing to begin his fifth season in the NFL. Copeland signed a one-year deal with New England to help offset the free-agent linebacker losses of Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts.
He provides the kind of versatility the Patriots are always looking for. After two seasons with the Detroit Lions, he's spent his past two with the Jets and has played linebacker, defensive end and on special teams. His best season was 2018 when, as mostly an edge rusher, he had 14 QB hits and five sacks for New York.
“In terms of my own role here for me, I’m trying to go in and learn as much as possible,” Copeland said. “I’m obviously a linebacker body type but I’ve realized what’s kept me in the league for this long and at the level I’ve played at is the fact that I can do multiple things at a high level.”
That desire to make an impact extends away from the field. Copeland received the NFL Players Association's Alan Page Award this past year for his community service. On his introductory call, he said he's partnered with local organizations to donate $10,000 worth of groceries to Boston-area neighborhoods impacted by the coronavirus crisis. He also made similar $10,000 donations in Baltimore, where he's from, and New Jersey, where he played with the Jets.
Copeland also teaches a financial literacy course called "Life 101" at Penn's Wharton School of Business and he's extended that instruction lately to NFL players staying at home during the pandemic. His "Beyond the Basics" foundation hosts Christmas shopping for low-income families and a football camp for kids - via Zoom conference call on Saturday this year - that includes providing school supplies and hygiene kits.
“I really want to make sure that at my funeral, as grim as that may sound, there’s more people talking about the holiday shopping spree we took them on, or the groceries we gave them during a crazy time like this, than a sack that I’m going to have this year or something like that,” Copeland said. “And again, I know that might be weird to say in a forum like this, but that’s just the reality of the situation.”