Way it Is
The same day the New England Patriots shocked the world by acquiring bad boy Albert Haynesworth and big mouth Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson, they acquired two other players where the word "bad" is last adjective you'd use to describe them.
Their names are Tyree Barnes and Eric Kettani.
Don't feel bad. I had never heard of them either.
The Patriots signed the duo in 2009 as undrafted free agents. So why are we still dealing with these no-names two years later?
They graduated from the Naval Academy — Barnes was a wideout and Kettani a running back — and then had to complete two more years of service.
The Patriots' ties to the Naval Academy and Annapolis, Md., are well documented. Bill Belichick grew up in Annapolis as his dad, Steve Belichick, was a long-time coach and scout at Navy.
Although Belichick has an affinity for the discipline at Navy, this was not about favors or relationships. The Patriots apparently like both of these young men.
"I've met Bill a few times, but we don't talk hardly at all," said Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo. "The Patriots had been following Tyree and Eric. They liked what they saw ... I can't blame them. These are two special guys who will not cause one problem."
Basically, Barnes and Kettani are the anti-Haynesworth and anti-Ochocinco.
Let's take a look at both of the newcomers.
Barnes is a wide receiver and started for most of his four years. He led the Middies in receiving with 20 catches in 2008.
While it doesn't sound like a lot, considering the fact that Navy only threw the ball slightly over seven times a game, that's gargantuan.
And he did average 20.0 yards per catch his senior season.
"He's one of the best athletes and the most gifted wide receivers I've seen since I've been here at Navy, said Niumatalolo, who has spent 14 years at the school, the last five seasons as head coach. "Obviously, we don't throw the ball a lot. But he competes every play as if he's going to get the ball or by blocking.
"Against some of the better teams, like Rutgers and Notre Dame, he had some of his better games and bigger catches.
One of his biggest catches was in 2008 when Navy beat Rutgers.
"It was third-and-long and, I believe it was Devin McCourty (Patriots star cornerback) who was on him," said Niumatalolo. "Tyree made a big catch, grabbing the ball. It was a great play."
Niumatalolo has similar praise for Kettani, who played fullback in their option system.
"I realize people look at him as a fullback," said Niumatalolo. "He was the first option on every play. He's strong and tough. But he's also got some elusiveness, too."
Kettani's numbers bear that comment out. He rushed for 1,862 yards (5.4 average) and 14 TDs his last two seasons.
"When we beat Wake Forest, a team that had star players like Aaron Curry (4th pick overall) and Alphonso Smith (37th pick overall) — I think they had five defenders drafted overall — Eric rushed for 175 yards. It was a great performance. After the draft the next year I realized how good it was."
Niumatalolo says both new Patriots are among the special guys he has coached.
"I'm not just talking football. I'm talking the entire package," said Niumatalolo. "They were model Midshipmen. They did very well in school. They were obviously among our best football players. And they were performers in their service at the Naval Academy. If you asked me for the blueprint for Midshipmen, it would be these two."
As for predicting whether either the 6-0, 196-pound Barnes or the 5-11, 235-pound Kettani will stick, Niumatalolo says he wouldn't bet against them.
"They are both the kind of players you think of when you think of the New England Patriots," said Niumatalolo. "The next level is not easy to figure out. It is definitely different than what we see in college. I believe Tyree's best days are ahead of him. And Eric is as tough as they come. I like their chances."