Ivan Fears, New England Patriots’ running backs coach and esteemed member of the Pats’ championship braintrust for three decades, knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a leader. Having helped groom multiple undrafted free agents into lead backs, mid-rounders into stars, reclamation projects into champions, not to mention establishing a legacy with the role of third-down back, when Fears talks the running back position, people listen. So when he offered some praise and issued a challenge for Rhamondre Stevenson, ears across Pats Nation perked up.
In an exclusive chat with The 6 Rings Podcast, following up Fears joining Ernie Adams and Dante Scarnecchia for an appearance and Q&A at I Love Boston Sports in Braintree, Fears spoke proudly of what the Pats’ third-year and de facto lead running back has accomplished in two seasons.
“The kid has worked hard to learn, to prepare, to train,” Fears said of Stevenson. “He’s got to continue in that mode because right now he’s about to become a leader.”
Stevenson, who led the Pats in rushing yards and receptions in 2022, has emerged as an offensive force in the NFL. But Fears doesn’t want him to stop there, but continue to grow his game and his role on the team.
“Everybody looks to Rhamondre because he’s the man, he can do it all,” Fears said. “But he’s gotta step up and get those guys ready.”
The guys Fears is speaking of would be the Pats’ running back room, which features Stevenson, second-year backs Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris, plus veteran Ty Montgomery and recently acquired free agent James Robinson. Fears, who preaches the value of hard work and the value of true teamwork, sees this as Stevenson’s opportunity to take a central role in that room, on the offense and on a team that lacks star power overall.
“It’s one thing to lead on Sunday, but to be successful you’ve got to lead every day of the week,” Fears said.
Fears, who ran the Pats’ running back room for two decades (in addition to work with the receivers previously) remains with the team but in a lesser capacity. His former assistant Vinnie Sunseri is now leading the running backs, and Fears believes the former Alabama defensive back is the man for the job.
“He’s a tough nut and a hard-working rascal”, Fears said, offering that Sunseri’s football pedigree and legacy (his father Sal was a successful defensive coach in college and the NFL) will help him evolve and lead.
The Pats’ 2023 offense will feature contributions from a number of younger and new players via free agency and the draft. Fears, who preaches effort and teamwork above all else, believes a lot of responsibility for the team’s success in a challenging AFC East falls on the running game.
“We need to be able to control the ball on offense so we can score points and burn the clock,” he said.
And just who will help among all the offensive players with this old school approach? Fears believes one of his proteges should be up to the challenge.
“Rhamondre’s the leader. He’s gotta get the guys going!”
Check out the entire podcast with exclusive chats with Ivan Fears, Ernie Adams and Dante Scarnecchia by clicking HERE. And don’t forget to subscribe to The 6 Rings and Football Things podcast for the latest in Patriots news, notes and analysis.