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ST. PAUL, Minn. — The stat sheet for Cole Croston’s rookie year with the New England Patriots includes just a handful of offensive snaps in three games, all kneel downs at the end of games.

Perhaps the best-case scenario for the Patriots would be if Croston enters Sunday’s Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles, because it would mean the Patriots were in victory formation.

It would certainly cap what has been a whirlwind year for the former Iowa Hawkeye from Sergeant Bluff.

“It's all happening so quick I don't think it'll truly hit me until after the season,” Croston said.

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Croston said that after he went undrafted in April, he had several offers for free agent contracts, but picked the Patriots in large part because of offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, with whom he felt a connection during pre-draft conversations.

Still, there was no guarantee that Croston would make the 53-man roster, but he felt the Patriots, and particularly Scarnecchia, would give him the best chance to develop into an NFL-caliber offensive lineman.

That Croston earned one of those roster spots -- instead of landing on the practice squad -- was among the Patriots’ roster surprises in September. It was Croston’s versatility, and ability to potentially serve as a backup at multiple positions along the line, at guard and tackle, that made him valuable, Scarnecchia said.

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Croston also fit the typical mold of offensive lineman that Scarnecchia covets, with good size (6-5, 315 pounds), the smarts to comprehend the Patriots’ hefty playbook and toughness built through taking a more difficult path at Iowa.

Croston started as a walk-on there before developing into a two-year starter and earning a scholarship to his father’s alma mater. His dad, Dave, played guard for the Hawkeyes in the 1980s and was a third-round pick by the Green Bay Packers in 1987.

Now Croston can see some similarities in his collegiate journey to the path he’s taking in the NFL.

“You've got a chip on your shoulder and you want to earn a spot. But other than that it's just working hard, trying to earn a spot,” Croston said.

For now that process means playing on the scout team during practices and trying to take as many mental repetitions during offensive periods. During meetings, he’s trying to learn as much from Scarnecchia and his veteran teammates as possible.

“I think he's learned how to deal with the speed of this game, how to deal with the athletic ability of the players that he's going against every day, and I think those things, he's done well with that. He's a great kid, we're happy that we got him,” Scarnecchia said. “This has been a good year for him from that standpoint, and we look for him to be a solid guy going forward.”

Croston was inactive during the Patriots’ first nine games, and made his debut in Week 11. He was active for the AFC Championship Game win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, and played four snaps on special teams in that game, another step in his development.

“My whole life has kind of been a developmental phase,” Croston said. “I'm still developing, just trying to get on the field.”

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