JuJu Smith-Schuster eager to take on a leadership role with Patriots

FOXBORO — JuJu Smith-Schuster has a new role — and a new number — as he enters his first season with the New England Patriots. Now donning the No. 7 on his jersey, the veteran receiver is also eager to be a leader among New England’s young offense.

The new digit is a special one for Smith-Schuster in many different ways, as he explained after Thursday’s practice behind Gillette Stadium.

“It represents a lot of things. My mom’s favorite number is seven. She has seven kids. Lucky number seven. One of my favorite soccer players is No. 7, Vinícius Júnior. This is year seven [of my NFL career],” he rattled off. 

The Patriots are also gunning for the franchise’s seventh Super Bowl, and Smith-Schuster would love to have a hand in making that happen.

“There you go. Add that one in there too,” he said. “That is always a goal of mine, for sure.”

Smith-Schuster won his first Super Bowl ring last year as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. He brings championship experience and 401 career receptions to a New England roster that, aside from the coaching staff and a handful of players, is currently lacking on the former.

Smith-Schuster isn’t satisfied with just one title to his name.

“People ask what it’s like to win a Super Bowl. It’s all in the moment, and the only way you can feel that way is if you get back there,” he said.

After being sidelined during New England minicamp, Smith-Schuster is putting in as much work as possible in camp. He did catch passes from Mac Jones during the offseason, so he’s already a few steps ahead at building a good rapport with his new quarterback. 

“The guy is super intelligent and his work ethic is the best. I’ve seen a lot of guys come into the office early, leave late, and he’s one of those guys,” he said of Jones. “There is no gray area in this offense. We speak about it, talk about it, fix it, and then move on.” 

He’s also showing the young players on the New England offense what it takes to play some winning football.

“I’m a reliable guy. In tough times and tough situations they can go to me. Building that chemistry where I give the offense the confidence to make those plays, all day every day,” he said.

Smith-Schuster is in line to catch a lot of passes as New England’s slot receiver. He understands what is expected out of that position, and hopes to live up to other slot receivers who have made a name for themselves in a Patriots uniform.

“The slot position has been a big tradition here, from Troy [Brown] to [Julian] Edelman and all the guys who have been in that position. It’s an honor to be in that position,” he said.

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