Sports

Stupar inks deal with New England

Jonathan Stupar spent Friday night studying. He also spent Thursday night studying.

Stupar’s test?

Try to learn one of professional sports’ most intricate systems as quickly as possibility.

It might be the most enjoyable test of Stupar’s life.

Stupar, the former State College High School and Virginia tight end, has signed an NFL free agent contract with the New England Patriots. Stupar, who’s attending the organization’s rookie minicamp in Foxborough, Mass., signed the deal after being bypassed in last weekend’s NFL Draft.

“It’s going great,” he said Friday night. “I have been up here for a day-and-a-half and it seems like it has been a week. It’s been jam-packed and full of meetings. A ton of stuff has been thrown at us.I’m trying to be like one big sponge.”

The 6-foot-3, 254-pound Stupar is one of 25 players participating in the minicamp. Stupar received interest from multiple teams before, after and during the seven-round draft. Stupar’s father, Stephen Stupar, said the Green Bay and Seattle, also attempted to sign his son after the draft.

Jonathan said he signed with the Patriots for two reasons:a.) They have experienced recent success; b.) They didn’t draft a tight end this year.

“It just felt right,” said Stupar, who’s represented by Los-Angeles-based agent Ted Marchibroda Jr. “It’s such a winning program and that’s important when deciding where you want to go. There are a lot of great teams out there, but when everyone thinks of great football teams, the Patriots come to mind whether they like them or not. It was the best situation based on numbers and opportunity.”

The Patriots, who won three Super Bowls from 2001-05 and lost to the New York Giants in this year’s championship game, top two tight ends are veterans Ben Watson and Marcus Pollard. David Thomas and Stephen Spach are listed at the third-team tight end slot on the team’s depth chart. Stupar said he received a call from the Patriots during the draft’s sixth round. But the Patriots, who didn’t have a seventh-round pick, used their final selection on Nebraska linebacker Bo Ruud.

Stupar worked out for Patriots’ tight end coach Pete Mangurian during Virginia’s pro day earlier this year. Some of Virginia’s offensive philosophies are similar to the Patriots because Cavalier coach Al Groh and New England’s Bill Belichick worked together with the Giants.

“The tight end coach was really impressed with him when they saw him at Virginia,” Stephen said. “They saw him fitting into their system well.”

Jonathan received his first glimpse of NFL life when he arrived at the Patriots’ complex Thursday. The rookies met with Belichick and Stupar spotted quarterback Tom Brady walking through the grounds.

“It’s weird because those guys are kind of like celebrities,” Stupar said. “They are great football players. It’s just an honor to be here.”

Stupar arrives in New England after a productive career at Virginia. He caught 40 passes this past season, the second highest total among Atlantic Coast Conference tight ends. His 80 career receptions ranks fifth all-time among Virginia tight ends.

The minicamp runs through this weekend. Stupar, who graduated from Virginia in December with a kinesiology degree, will spend next week at his parents’ home in State College before returning to New England on May 15 for offseason workouts.

“The terminology is very difficult,” Stupar said. “But I don’t feel like there’s a better place for me to learn than from the Patriots. They have so many veterans who are very knowledgeable. I feel like I can benefit from being around them.”

Stupar isn’t the only former District 6 and Virginia player participating in a rookie minicamp this weekend. Central Mountain graduate Chris Gould, the brother of Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould, is trying out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gould converted 27 field goals during his career at Virginia.

Former North Carolina State and Williamsport High School player Darrell Blackman, who played against Stupar in college and high school, signed a free agent contract with the Detroit Lions after the draft.

Kinlaw trying out with Lions

Former Penn State running back Rodney Kinlaw is one of 32 players participating in a tryout at this weekend’s Lions’ rookie minicamp. Kinlaw led Penn State with 1,329 yards on 243 carries in 2007.Kinlaw is one of four running backs in the minicamp. The Lions used a third-round pick on Central Florida tailback Kevin Smith and a fifth-round pick on Furman fullback Jerome Felton.

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