The emotional toll that the controversy over his tattoo has taken on Patriots draft pick Justin Rohrwasser led to the kicker breaking down and crying last weekend, his high school coach told the Boston Globe.
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“He just broke down crying in the car,” John Barber, Rohrwasser’s coach at Central Catholic in Troy, N.Y., told the Globe's Ben Volin. “My first reaction was, ‘Where are you? I’ll come get you.’ He said, ‘No, I’m fine, I’m driving home.’”
Rohrwasser was selected in the fifth round of the NFL Draft last Saturday and almost immediately controversy ensued about the tattoo on his left arm of the logo of the Three Percenters, a right-wing paramilitary group that had a connection to the deadly "Unite The Right" rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.
After initially telling the media on his post-draft conference call Saturday that he got the tattoo as an expression of military support and that he'll cover it up - "Obviously, it evolved into something that I did not want to represent," he said - Rohrwasser the next day said he would completely remove the tattoo.
It didn't stop the controversy. Former ESPN host Jemele Hill, now a writer with The Atlantic, called him out:
Patriots kicker is a white supremacist. My bad, he tends to like white supremacist things. Carry on, nothing to see here. https://t.co/CQE0S7LKO8— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) April 26, 2020
His Twitter and Instagram feeds, which included "likes" of President Donald Trump and right-wing-connected figures Ayn Rand and Jordan Peterson, drew scrutiny.
Rohrwasser began his college career at the University of Rhode Island before transferring to Marshall. Characterizing the kicker as a white supremacist doesn't square with what URI coach Jim Fleming encountered.
“I thought he was an intelligent, well-spoken, good dude," Fleming told the Globe. "Kids liked him. He wasn’t a normal introverted kicker. He had some personality to him.”
Fleming said Rohrwasser made no secret of his conservative political beliefs and often wore the red "Make America Great Again" hat of Trump supporters.
"I was not concerned whatsoever about him dividing the team," Fleming said. "So I feel bad for the kid right now. He’ll weather the storm, hopefully.”
Rohrwasser's teammate at Marshall, long snapper Matt Beardall, said those critical of the Patriots new kicker have jumped to the wrong conclusion.
“He’s not an extremist like everyone is calling him to be, and it’s really sad that some people who don’t know him are calling him names and making judgments,” Beardall told the Globe.
It's been only a week, and he hasn't set foot in Foxboro, but the NFL career of the apparent heir to longtime New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski is off to a tempestuous start.