At one point in his career, Jalen Mills played a pivotal role in one of the New England Patriots' most devastating defeats.
Nonetheless, Mills is very much a prototypical Patriots player. He boasts championship experience, versatility and the willingness to do what's needed of him to contribute to victory.
So perhaps it's no surprise that Mills, one of an assortment of notable free-agent acquisitions during the Pats' frenzied offseason, is embracing his new surroundings.
"I was brought up with a great group of veterans guys when I was drafted into Philly," said this week at organized team activities, via the team website’s Mike Dussault. "They always told me, 'you don't win games in April, May, June, but you do lay the foundation.' The foundation is what you always go back on when you get in those games and it's the fourth quarter and it's that last play to win the game. You always go back on the foundation and all the hard work you put in the off-season. So that's always been my mindset to come and compete, also coming into a new team to show [owner] Mr. [Robert] Kraft, [head] coach Bill [Belichick] and the coaching staff, and also the players here, that I'm all in with this team and this organization. I came to work hard."
In his second NFL season, Mills was a starter for an Eagles team that memorably defeated the mighty Pats, 41-33, in Super Bowl LII. Starting at cornerback, Mills had a team-high nine tackles for Philly, including the last tackle of the game.
In the aftermath of back-to-back seasons in which he missed significant time due to a foot injury, Mills started 15 games for the Eagles in 2020. Mills played all over the field -- in the box, at free safety, outside at corner and in the slot-- and posted a career-high 74 tackles.
Now, still only 27, Mills joins the team he helped to defeat on the biggest stage of them all.
It remains to be seen if Mills can work himself into the starting lineup for the Patriots, though his versatility portends to ample playing time at the least.
Doing his best to make a significant initial impression, Mills started putting in the work in May at OTAs and, if nothing more, has shown himself to be, as aforementioned, "all in" from the jump.
"The energy is crazy right now, I'm super excited," he said. "The camaraderie of being around the guys and being in the weight room and being in the meetings and then going out on the practice field and working hard. When it's all said and done, that's what I live for. I think the energy has definitely been very, very high."