Saturday was an extra special day for LB Natrez Patrick.
Not only did he make the Los Angeles Rams' initial 53-man roster – he did it on his mom’s birthday.
“I’m blessed I could be able to do that for her on her birthday,” Patrick said.
Patrick’s special gift was made possible because of his response to adversity, and within that, what he was able to show in the preseason.
During his time at Georgia, he was arrested three times on marijuana-related charges. His second offense, a pair misdemeanor charges involving possession of less than once ounce of marijuana and parking in a prohibited area, resulted in a four-game suspension.
His third offense, coming in the early morning hours after Georgia’s 28-7 win over Auburn in the 2017 SEC Championship, would’ve resulted in dismissal from the team per the university’s student-athlete handbook. According to ESPN’s Mark Shlabach, Patrick and teammate Jayson Stanley were driving back to Atlanta from Winder, Georgia, when the car – driven by Stanley – was pulled over for speeding by a Barrow County sheriff who smelled marijuana coming from the car.
However, the charges were dropped 11 days later, according to multiple reports. Schlabach reported Stanley pled guilty to misdemeanor possession of marijuana and speeding and, in a video released by the Barrow County sheriff’s office, claimed the marijuana and vehicle were both his and implored for Patrick not to be charged.
To Patrick’s credit, he entered an in-patient treatment program, a move that helped him play in all 14 of the Bulldogs’ games as a senior with eight starts in 2018. His 44 tackles helped lead Georgia to a Sugar Bowl appearance against Texas, where he logged a season-high seven stops.
Analyst Lance Zierlein wrote on Patrick’s NFL.com draft profile that dependability was a concern given what happened away from the field in college. However, Rams GM Les Snead on Saturday felt confident that those days were behind Patrick going all the way back to when the club signed him in May.
“We do a lot of research on those kids,” Snead said. “To bring one in, you go, ‘Okay, at the end of the day, thumbs up or thumbs down?’ … Based on everything we collected and who the human being was after those instances, we felt comfortable doing it.”
Whether those incidents played a factor in him not getting selected in this year's draft isn’t explicitly clear. What is clear, though, is that it gave him all the motivation he needed.
“It was definitely a chip (on my shoulder), but I feel like that chip is necessary for a guy in my position,” Patrick said. “Coming from (being) undrafted, you don’t have as many opportunities just like the other guys, so you have to get it in where you fit in. Every rep counted, everything you did counted, everything was always a test and that’s how I approached it.”
In turn, his mindset and Snead’s faith him were rewarded.
Injuries at outside linebacker necessitated a switch from inside linebacker earlier in the preseason. He flourished from the move, collecting three total tackles, half of a sack and one QB hit while playing 48 percent of the Rams’ total defensive snaps against the Cowboys in Hawaii.
Overall, he collected 11 tackles, 0.5 sacks and one QB hit in three preseason games, helping show Los Angeles it had seen enough to rest him in Thursday’s preseason finale at Houston.
“He was a guy that came in, maximized his opportunities,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said.
Fittingly, on one of the biggest days of his young life, Patrick paid tribute and gave credit to his mom in a post on his personal Instagram account Saturday afternoon.
“Happy birthday to my rock man,” Patrick wrote. “I’ll spin the whole world about you, literally! Never once have I had to question your love or loyalty even after everything I put you through. God finally blessed us with our dream. Now live it up shawty, you can afford a couple days off…. Or some weeks.”
Sounds like a great way to extend a memorable birthday celebration.