FOXBOROUGH -- The rookie running back arrived in town with a decorated résumé and the desire to fulfill a longtime dream.
Laurence Maroney remembers saying it as early as his elementary school years. One day, if everything unfolded as he hoped, he would buy his mother her dream house.
He saw how his mom, a single parent, worked seven days a week, yet still found time to drive him to practices, and hardly ever missed a game. He might not have had name-brand clothes, but that was secondary to the love and support he received from his mother, Terri Terrell.
So Maroney dreamed big, and modeled his approach after what he witnessed each day in St. Louis.
``Seeing her gave me more motivation to work that much harder," said the 21-year-old running back, who is coming off a dazzling 15-carry, 125-yard, two-touchdown performance in the Patriots' 38-13 victory at Cincinnati Sunday. ``I felt like my mother was putting in all that effort, so the least I could do is repay the favor by putting in my full effort in whatever I did to give back.
``I knew football was in my heart and I was going to try to make it one way or the other, and if I were ever to make it, I would take care of her, for taking care of me."
Not long after Maroney was selected in the first round of April's NFL draft, the plans were put into motion. At first, he and his mother looked at existing homes, then he did something he has become known for on the football field: He quickly changed direction and never looked back.
At the same time Maroney was building the foundation for what he hopes is a long, successful NFL career in New England, the foundation was poured for a 6,500-square-foot home on a 1-acre lot in St. Louis.
A big house was imperative, but not necessarily to be showy. Maroney has eight aunts, one uncle, and a healthy number of cousins, too, so the new home would be a place where they could get together. And there are few things Maroney values more than family and friendship.
``Laurence is loyal to no end," Terrell said. ``If you're his friend, you're his friend forever."
Today, Maroney's family stays by his side every step of the way. His mother has retired as a corporate trainer and now serves as his business manager, splitting time between St. Louis and New England. His 33-year-old brother Willie lives with him, while his sister, 30-year-old Stephannie , remains a rock of support to whom he is indebted for helping him through rough patches at the University of Minnesota.
Each of the children has a tattoo that reads ``My first love, Terri."
``It's just the friendship that we have and how she's been behind me every step of the way," Maroney said. ``In a lot of ways, I'm just like she is."
Terrell says she and her son are similar in that, ``It doesn't take us long to tell if people are for real or not. With most people, we either hit it off right away, or it usually doesn't happen."
Perhaps that's why Maroney arrived in New England with plenty of anxiety. He was worried about first impressions.
But Maroney was still worried about how he would be accepted by the team's top running back, Corey Dillon, who spent the bulk of the offseason working out in California.
``Coming in as a rookie, you hear so many things," Maroney said. ``People are always in your ear, telling you how it's going to be, telling you how the running backs will treat you now because this is a job and these guys are trying to support and feed their families. By me coming, I thought they'd see me as someone who was trying to take food off their plate. That's not what is intended. I've always taken pride in being a person who is going to try to help the team in any way possible. I wasn't coming here to take away anyone's shine, or replace anybody.
``Then Corey got up here and he said the same thing that [Faulk] did. And ever since Day 1, we've been buddy-buddy. Everyone tries to say Corey has an arrogant attitude, that he acts a certain way, but deep down inside, if you really get to know the guy, he's the coolest dude I've ever met. He's doing everything in his power to help me learn and help me better myself."
It marked the second time that Maroney feared the worst, only to realize that things couldn't have worked out better. At Minnesota, he was paired with Marion Barber (now with the Dallas Cowboys) as part of a running back tandem.
``Everybody would say, `You and Marion aren't going to be friends, you won't get along because he'll think you're trying to take his spot,' " Maroney said. ``But once I got there, it was a lot different. We became the best of friends and we still talk to this day."
Still, there are some differences between Maroney's experience in college and the NFL, and it traces back to the idea that football is now his job. Despite signing a five-year, $8.735 million contract in late July, Maroney sometimes wishes he could turn back the clock. ``I was talking to my good friends in college the other night and I was like, `Man, you don't know what I'd do to pay for a day just to go back and hang out with you again,' " he said. ``Even though I'm up here now and doing what I want to do -- playing in the NFL and able to buy whatever I want -- it's just not the same."
He might be supremely confident on the football field -- he privately tells those close to him he's gunning for Rookie of the Year -- but his mother describes him as sensitive and fun-loving off the field.
Maroney's sense of humor was on display one recent afternoon in the Patriots' locker room, when a team official was handing out paychecks. Maroney opened his envelope, assessed how much was taken out for taxes, then joked with teammates that they should fight for lower taxes. ``I like to play a lot," Maroney said.
He also likes to deliver stiff-arms, as evidenced by his powerful performance Sunday in Cincinnati when he twice leveled defenders. On his 25-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, Maroney decked safety Madieu Williams with a righthanded thrust.
``He used the stiff-arm in high school, but they always called penalties on him," Terrell said. ``Once he got to college, he used it a little, but in the NFL you can use it all the time, so he's taking advantage."
For a 5-foot-11-inch, 220-pound player like Maroney, whose dreadlocks extend below the back of his helmet, the power is sudden. He said it comes from his work in the weight room.
As for his work on the field, Maroney is grateful that it helped him achieve his longtime goal: getting his mother her dream home.
``It's a great feeling when you can take care of her," he said. ``She's doing all the things she wanted to but never could because she was working so many hours per day, seven days a week. Just seeing that smile on her face, you can tell she's so much happier in life right now. I always told myself that I'd take care of my mother first."