Maroney goes 21st to Patriots

The former Gopher was the second running back taken in the NFL draft.

Matt Perkins

In just three seasons with Minnesota’s football team, Laurence Maroney became something close to a legend.

He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his three years at Minnesota, joining Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne and Michigan State’s Sedrick Irvin as the only Big Ten players to ever accomplish that feat.

And Saturday, with the 21st pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots chose Maroney as their running back for the future.

“They have a nice little dynasty they started, and they just have great players and a great coaching staff,” Maroney said. “I’m fortunate to come into a great situation.”

Things couldn’t have gotten much better for Maroney.

Being the second running back taken in the draft, many analysts had Maroney as the third- or fourth-best running back.

But not New England coach Bill Belichick.

“Coach Belichick came on (the phone) and was just breaking it down to me, you know, ‘We drafted for you to come in and compete and help the team out,’ ” Maroney said. “And he was like, ‘How do you feel about being a Patriot?’ And I said, ‘I feel good about it.’ “

And the Patriots should feel just as good.

New England had the NFL’s 10th-ranked offense last season, posting more than 23 points per game.

But the Pats had trouble getting their running game going, averaging just 94.5 yards per game on the ground, ninth-worst in the league. Star running back Corey Dillon was plagued by various leg injuries throughout the season, shifting part of the running load to backups Kevin Faulk and Patrick Pass.

Belichick told reporters Saturday that Maroney gives the Patriots a more versatile look on offense, as he is expected to share duties with Dillon.

But Maroney very well could find himself competing for the starting job.

“I feel like competition only brings the best out of everybody,” Maroney said. “So I feel like competing against him – because he’s a great player and I feel like I can be a great player one day – so I feel like competition is the best thing for me.”

Belichick said he was excited about the “intangibles” Maroney possesses.

“He does a lot of things well and still has a lot of work to do,” Belichick said. “Believe me, I don’t think anybody comes into this league as a finished product.”

Gophers go on day two

Defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery was selected Sunday by the Washington Redskins with the 153rd overall pick, the 21st selection of the fifth round.

Montgomery was the second Gophers player to be drafted.

Outland Trophy winning center Greg Eslinger was drafted by Denver with the 29th pick of the sixth round, the 198th selection overall.

All-American guard Mark Setterstrom was the last of three former Minnesota players to be drafted. Setterstrom went to the St. Louis Rams with the 34th pick in the seventh round, the 243rd overall pick.