BOSTON (AP) — Mac Jones has only been to New England once, a trip to Boston about 10 years ago to catch a cruise.
His lingering memory? Almost losing a foot when his sandal got stuck in an escalator.
Soon he'll back, called upon to possibly be the Patriots' quarterback of the future in their biggest move to date to find their long-term replacement for Tom Brady.
The Patriots selected the former Alabama standout with the No. 15 pick of Thursday's NFL draft, making him the first quarterback selected in the first round during Bill Belichick's 21-year tenure in New England.
"For me it's just being myself and being my own player," Jones said. "Obviously, (Brady) did great things for New England. I'm just looking forward to going in there and working."
Belichick said Jones will start at the bottom of the depth chart.
"Right now Mac just has a lot of work to go in front of him," Belichick said.
A fan of Brady's growing up, Jones said he saw plenty of Brady when he started watching football.
"I've watched all the Super Bowls regardless of the team," Jones said. "Obviously, Tom and the New England Patriots were in a lot of them."
It was believed the Patriots would have to trade up to get one of the consensus top five quarterbacks in this year's draft class. It turned out Jones fell right into their lap.
After Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance came off the board in the first three picks, top-rated prospects Justin Fields and Jones were still up for grabs.
The Bears moved up from No. 20 to No. 11 in a trade with the Giants to select Fields, leaving only Jones available.
Jones has been high on the Patriots' list for some time, as evidenced by the pre-draft scouting they did on him. They sent scouts to the Senior Bowl and both Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels attended Alabama's pro day. The conversations continued through several video calls as well, Jones said.
Jones played under Belichick's longtime friend and former coaching colleague Nick Saban and earned the Davey O'Brien Award in 2020 as the top quarterback in college football. He is the third former Crimson Tide quarterback to be chosen in the first round since 1967, following Tua Tagovailoa (taken fifth in 2020) and Richard Todd (sixth in in 1976).
Lauded for his accuracy and ability to command Saban's system in his lone year as the Crimson Tide's full-time starter, Jones arrives in New England coming off a season that saw him lead Alabama to a national title while completing an NCAA-record 77.4% of his passes for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
He joins a Patriots team that is in transition after finishing 7-9 in 2020 and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008. One of the reasons was Cam Newton's struggles to get his footing in the offense after taking over for Brady following his departure in free agency to Tampa Bay.
Newton was re-signed this offseason but returns on only a one-year deal. His backup last season, Jarrett Stidham, was beaten out for the starting job and has underwhelmed in limited action during his first two years in the league.
Jones said he isn't focused on trying to be the starter at this point. For now he is enjoying the irony of a quarterback room that features two Auburn alums in Newton and Stidham and now one from rival Alabama. Learning is his top priority.
"Cam earned the respect of the team already. And my job is to support him and Jarrett and help them become better players, if I can," Jones said. "I've never played in the NFL, but I've seen good football. And I know that I can help them with anything they need,"
The Patriots head into Day 2 holding the 14th pick (46th overall) in Round 2 and the 33rd pick in the third round — the highest compensatory spot at 96th overall. New England was awarded the latter selection in large part for having Brady land in Tampa Bay — and winning the Super Bowl last season.
While they brought in a nice haul during the first wave of free agency, they still have some needs to fill at cornerback, linebacker, receiver and offensive line.