Soft-spoken Deatrich Wise Jr.'s actions, leadership speaking volumes for Patriots

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When you think about leadership in sports, the depiction is often of the guy that you hear long before you see them in the locker room, the guy bellowing from the top of the pile in the pre-game team huddle or the enforcer who keeps you in line when you slip up.

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But as has been discussed often down at Gillette Stadium ahead of the Patriots’ biggest game of the season – a primetime matchup against the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night – people will still follow a man who speaks softly but cares a big stick.

Perhaps no Patriots player exemplifies that better than Deatrich Wise Jr.

The former fourth-round pick out of Arkansas speaks softly and in measured tones when he’s at the podium or speaks to you one-on-one in the locker room, a huge contrast to the bombastic Matthew Judon whose locker sits across from him at Gillette Stadium.

That hasn’t stopped Wise from becoming something of a comedian in the locker room, mock-interviewing teammates like Jahlani Tavai and Mike Onwenu for a laugh on occasion, or trading jokes with the media when during his press availabilities both in good times and bad.

But when it’s time to get down to business, few are more dogged in their pursuit to get better on and off the field than Wise.

“You’ve seen it through OTA’s and all camp,” Matthew Judon said of Wise after the latter's three-sack game against the Baltimore Ravens. “That’s the reason why he’s one of our leaders, one of our captains, vocal. Deatrich has been putting in so much work off the field. Countless hours that nobody has seen. It’s just showing up now.”

Wise even got a shout-out from Bill Belichick this week as the coach talked about the leadership of linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley on Tuesday.

Bentley, who came to the Patriots a year after Wise, got to learn not just from usual suspects Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater but also from acclaimed leader Dont’a Hightower and linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, who was a tremendous captain in his turn with the Patriots.

“I’ve never been around Mayo playing, but I’ve been around the players he’s played with,” Wise said after practice on Tuesday. “They learned from him, they ended up creating their own identity and leadership and I learned from them. Then, May comes back. Now I’m learning from the guys who taught my leaders. It’s pretty cool to see that full-circle.”

So, like a leadership tree?

“Yeah, that’s a good way to put it,” Wise said, even as a teammate in the background called him “OG” as a sign of respect.

Like those who came before him, the seventh-year pro, who re-signed with the Patriots last off-season, is out to create his own identity as a captain.

“I’m just myself,” he said. “I don’t try to look too hard into it, try to be too perfect. I think sometimes the best leaders are ones who are themselves and show everybody that they bleed too. At the same time, you have to learn from the people around you, knowing that if you talk to different people and [pay attention to] how they receiver, it actually makes for better results. … Understand yourself, and the more you understand yourself, the more you understand the people around you.”

For Wise, the 6.5 sacks he has on the football season, which already set his career-high, are only part of what he gives to his team and the people around him.

He was also named the Ron Burton Community Service Award before the start of the 2022 season and has used his Wise Up Foundation to host block parties in Mattapan and football camps for prospective offensive and defensive linemen he wishes he had access to growing up.

In a world where quiet leaders can speak loudly with their actions, Wise is making sure everyone hears him.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports