Bourne is at home in New England
Through high school car washes & life talks with strangers, wide receiver fitting in nicely
FOXBORO — Three weeks ago, Kendrick Bourne went for a drive. A Sunday to-do list unfurled in his head. Meet mom for her birthday brunch. Prep for a primetime game. Beat Tom Brady and the Bucs, with the whole world watching.
But for a few minutes, family and football could wait. Life was leading him into the heart of sleepy downtown Foxboro, where he’d been drawn by a certain, let’s say, energy. The smiles, the hand-drawn signs, the “fun” being put in a fundraiser he’d spotted near the town hall.
Bourne wanted to share in the energy of this car wash, even if his sparkling white Bentley didn’t need a washdown. So he veered back around, parked and opened his wallet to the organizers.
Would $100 be OK?
“I didn’t plan on going down there or anything like that,” Bourne told the Herald. “It just kind of happened.”
Naturally, the Foxboro girls volleyball team said yes. Then, eyeing the car, the girls started asking questions of their own.
Was he a player? What was his name?
“Initially I was like, ‘Dang, I gotta get out of here,” Bourne said, laughing with a deep sense of self-awareness.
The truth was the most outgoing Patriot wasn’t going anywhere.
“I ended up telling them, and they were just super juiced,” he continued. “It was dope just helping them out with what they needed. I wish I could have given them more, but it’s all I had on me at the time.”
Six months into his New England tenure, this is how the irrepressible Bourne has grown from free-agent addition to fan favorite. His 75-yard, goahead touchdown last week against Dallas both marked his most memorable play as a Patriot and captured his essence as a person. Even one snap after he’d caused a game-changing interception, there was no keeping Kendrick Bourne down.
Throughout a trying 2-4 start, Bourne has been an oasis of positivity in the locker room. The mere mention of his name forces a smile across the face of tight end Jonnu Smith, currently the poster boy of the Pats’ offensive struggles.
“His laugh is the most distinct laugh that you’ll ever hear,” Smith said Wednesday. “He definitely brings a lot of laughs, a lot of energy to the locker room. He’s a great teammate. Hell of a teammate, hell of a player.”
Even Bill Belichick beams at the thought of his third wide receiver.
“Yeah, he brings that (energy) out to the practice field every day,” Belichick said last week, sporting a growing grin. “It’s fun to have that type of personality and energy interjected into the team.”
Through spontaneous acts like the car wash, and organized efforts like serving as an honorary board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts, Bourne’s energy is now spilling into the community. Fans might find him sitting down to dinner in the North End or shooting the latest episode of a teammate’s YouTube series in Hyde Park or down the street at a local Dunkin’.
Two mornings after losing to Miami in the season opener, Bourne stopped by a Foxboro Dunkin’ with Pats linebacker Chase Winovich. Together, they posed for pictures with fans and traded laughs. Outside, Bourne’s Bentley had drawn more attention.
While most customers passed in and out, four teenage boys stood ogling the car, wondering whose it was. So Bourne approached them, and introduced himself. The Bentley belonged to him, he said, and then he proved it by unlocking the doors and inviting them inside.
“I just wanted to tell them it takes time to get stuff like this, but you have to do it the right way,” Bourne remembered. “And you don’t want to be going to buy this stuff before you have a house and stuff. Just tell them it was the fruits of my labor, and it’s possible to do whatever they want to do.”
The fruits of Bourne’s current labor are best summarized by his season stats: 18 catches, 282 yards and two touchdowns. Fairly pedestrian. But, there’s more.
Both of Bourne’s touchdowns were signs of hope in dark times, when the Patriots trailed New Orleans and later Dallas in the fourth quarter. His catch rate and yards per reception average both rank first among wideouts, signs that Mac Jones trusts him. Through it all, even the heartbreaking loss to Tampa Bay that followed his car wash stop, Bourne is still smiling.
As for that Bucs game, more than his five receptions or Nick Folk’s missed game-tying field goal, Bourne remembers the ride in with his mom. The extra minute or two they stole together, slowing down to connect with the people around them, the energy.
“When I’m riding through the tailgate, man, I always roll my windows down,” he said. “Everybody’s out there getting ready to watch us, and I usually ride with my mom, so sometimes she’s screaming out the window, having everybody go crazy. And she loves to do it. It gives her a priceless reaction, and I just enjoy it because it shows me I’m making my family happy and proud.
“They’re living a good life through me, through what I’m doing. It’s one of the best parts of game day for me, riding with whoever’s with me in the car and seeing how happy it makes them, and it makes me happy.”
And what better energy could there be than that?