This Love is unremitting
Patriots tackle a motivated man
FOXBOROUGH — The search for motivation has never stopped for Kyle Love.
He needed something or someone to push him when he was in college at Mississippi State, whether it was a coach whom he once asked to intentionally sit him out of a game or a roommate who stayed on his back about following a strict diet.
His father constantly finds ways to push him, telling him he had the talent to play pro football even when his college coach didn’t think the same thing, and then, once Love got a shot with the Patriots practice squad, telling him that wasn’t enough.
He still can set his watch to his father’s text messages.
“I’m sure one will be coming tonight or tomorrow morning,” the Patriots defensive tackle said Wednesday after the team’s last joint practice with the New Orleans Saints before their preseason opener at Gillette Stadium Thursday night.
But come December, he won’t have to search for something to drive him. He’ll see his motivation every day. His wife is expecting their first child, and more than anything, impending fatherhood has made Love’s purpose clear on the roster and in his household.
“You’ve got a family to feed,” he said. “Any man, if he’s got kids on the way or a wife, he should be wanting to provide. So that just makes me want to play harder.”
Last season was a breakthrough for Love. After making the squad as an undrafted rookie in 2010, playing in nine games and starting just one, he came back for 2011 and played in 16 games (starting 13), and piled up 55 tackles (30 unassisted) and three sacks.
It wasn’t enough.
“It’s like, I had a good season, but good just ain’t good enough,” he said. “Also, why not be better than the year before?
“I want to keep going up gradually. Every year I want to be better than the last year. If I had 30 tackles last year, I want to have 35 or maybe even more. Sacks, if I had three, I want to get six. I want to double everything and just try to be better.
“I can’t tell you exactly what it is. All I can say is, I haven’t proven my point. So I’m just going to continue to play like that.”
He’s approached camp the same way he did a year ago, when he went in as a backup wanting to catch up to the speed of the game. He said he still feeds off teammates such as Vince Wilfork, Gerard Warren, and Brandon Spikes. He fully embraces the idea of being underrated.
“I’m going to treat it like I’m an underdog,” Love said. “I’m always going to feel like that. So, that’s how I’m going to play. You’ve definitely got to have a chip. I’ve definitely got an even bigger one now.”
Still, he heard time and time again that he would become Wilfork’s heir apparent on the defensive line, and the times they lined up next to each other, they bullied offensive linemen with their size.
Nothing about that dynamic has changed going into Love’s third season. If anything, he is more burdensome for offensive linemen to deal with.
Saints guard Ben Grubbs, who signed a five-year, $36 million deal as a free agent over the summer, described Love in one word: “Heavy.”
“He’s a powerful player,” Grubbs said.
That’s all Love heard during practice.
“That’s all he kept saying to me yesterday,” Love said. “ ‘Man, you are strong.’ It’s just crazy.”
Blocking the 315-pound Love and the 325-pound Wilfork felt like trying to move furniture.
“They’re heavy, heavy guys and they know how to use their weight and their leverage,” Grubbs said. “They’re big guys and they’re hard to move.”
Love isn’t a $36 million man. He is due a $540,000 base salary after signing the team’s exclusive rights tender last month. The hope is that, like Gary Guyton and Kyle Arrington who were exclusive rights free agents before him, Love can negotiate a more substantial two-year deal.
He had no desire to talk about negotiations. But security will fuel him this season.
“It definitely changes a lot,” he said. “That’s another part of my chip right there. I want to take care of them. I don’t want them to have to want for anything. My father provided that for me. Growing up, my dad had everything for us. I was never the child for ask for a lot, but if I did, my dad was there for me for that and he did that.
“I think everybody should have something that drives them, something that motivates them, something that pushes you. If you don’t have that and you don’t do that, then why are you living? What are you living for?”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org