Q&A: Patriots WR Kendrick Bourne talks Bill Belichick, Mac Jones and his NFT release
Kendrick Bourne is a fifth-year receiver in his first season with the New England Patriots. He has caught three touchdown passes and even threw for a touchdown during the team’s recent six-game win streak.
As the Patriots prepare for their Monday night road game against the Buffalo Bills, Bourne is also looking ahead to the upcoming release of his three non-fungible tokens as he dips his toes further into the cryptocurrency and NFT landscape.
With help from founders Henry Organ and Hector Rivas of Disruptive Sports Agency and designer Ben Miller, Bourne customized three Nike Air Force One sneakers and plans to release digital art of the shoes Dec.19 on NFT marketplace OpenSea.
During an exclusive interview with USA TODAY Sports+, Bourne spoke about the inspiration behind his NFT project, former college teammate Cooper Kupp, playing under legendary coach Bill Belichick and alongside rookie quarterback Mac Jones.
NFL MIDWEEK TAILGATE:Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert? What to make of surging Patriots
Question: The three sneakers and corresponding digital art you’re releasing include an ode to your heritage, Boston sports culture and money. What’s the story behind each piece, and what do they mean to you?
Answer: “From my Samoan culture and Samoan heritage, I come from a strong background and I just want to represent my culture more — teaching people our culture, showing how we were created, how we grew up out there and why we're so strong, tough willed. It has the tattoo design on my arm on the shoe and the Samoan flag on the back.
“The Boston one was just about me making this transition coming over here from the West Coast to the East Coast. It has the design of Gillette Stadium, Super Bowl trophies, the Boston Celtics and the Red Sox, and got some Bruins stuff on there. So, it's just like the whole sports theme of Boston. Just coming over here being a part of the culture and really make an impact as I’ve done so far, is just amazing.
“And then there’s money one called $84, which has my face on it. It’s got Gillette Stadium on it. It’s like: ‘I'm not chasing money. The money chasing me.’ You know, if I do the things that bring success, the money follows. I win football games. I do things that win, like winning my day, the money comes. I’m not chasing it.
“The details of the shoes are what's really awesome. It's one personal designer and it is very unique. The details are everything. The Patriots are all about details and that's why they win. These are the only pairs like this, and with how the NFT space works now, you can't make duplicates. You can't just screenshot the digital art. The shoes just give us that little edge of, ‘Okay, it comes with something physical, too, that I can have in my hand also with the digital art.' I believe we're going to make the size for that person, and they can wear them if they want to.”
Q: Your YouTube channel and a video earlier this year show profits you’ve made from crypto investments, what inspired you to get into this space?
A: “It's just really taking advantage of the opportunity. It’s a new opportunity for the world. I just encourage the world to also do that.
”So, it's just a great opportunity for everybody. And if you take advantage of it, you know, it could blow for whoever. So, it’s really just about being prepared for the opportunity and jumping on a train, really trying to benefit from it for my family, for myself and for the future. It might be the whole world in the far future.”
Q: A lot of people may not know or remember, but you played with Rams star receiver Cooper Kupp in college at Eastern Washington. What’s it been like for you seeing the success he’s having this season, leading the NFL in receiving?
A: “I was just talking about Coop the other day. It’s just crazy. He was around me young, and now he's a leader in the league. Like, I've been chasing him in college my whole life, competing with him, playing with him. It felt like we were at our prime in college when we were playing together. And now, I see him in the league and we're the same age, and it’s like we're in our prime again. It’s like, ‘Wow, I'm still chasing him,’ and I love it. He's a part of me and helped me get to where I’m at. So, it’s just dope to see him leading the league and doing what he's been doing his whole life. People really just now waking up. He's certified, and he's been doing that what he’s doing now.”
Q: Let’s transition to your season. What has the six-game win streak been like for you as a first-year player under Bill Belichick on this Patriots team?
A: “It's awesome man. It just shows you what you can do when you put your mind to it, when the team buys into a formula that has been working for years before us. And it's just kind of a history rewriting, really.
”Bill has the plan here. He has a vision. And we players see the vision through him. And if you don't see the vision clear, he’ll find the person that does. So, it's kind of not a surprise. We just were waiting to find ourselves in, as they call it, in a rebuilding year or whatever, but it was just about everybody truly buying in. There's no ceiling. Bill is at the peak, but he's still growing. He's building on his mountain. So, if he can still grow, then you definitely can still grow and that's my mindset.”
Q: One of those tools is, obviously, rookie quarterback Mac Jones. What’s it been like playing alongside him?
A: “It's just funny how timing works, and Bill saw it before Mac knew and everybody knew. Mac is just the man. He's got it. He's got every tool he needs to take us where we want to go. So, it’s all on him. We’re right behind him. I'm definitely right behind him. I want him to trust me knowing I'm out there focused. And he knows where I want to go.
”I think as a whole team we need to feel each other like that. That will make it easier for us to get to where we want to go. But Mac is a leader and it starts with him. He just does a tremendous job, and it's a trickle effect so far.”
Q: Six in a row is impressive, but you’ve got a big stretch coming up (at Bills, at Colts, vs. Bills) that could make or break the season. What gives you guys confidence you'll make it through this next stretch?
A: “I think it’s just how sound we're playing. I think we're playing complementary (football) well. That's why we've been beating teams where we have, but for the future it's just about us pushing into that next level.
”I feel like a lot of players are thinking like that, because you can see growth in each room and that’s what you want to see through the year. I think it's a bright future, a bright month for us to show why we are who we are right now. It'll certify why we've done what we've done if we finish out these five (games remaining this season) like we did the six (during the win streak). We just have to finish out strong, and I think we’ve got the tools to do it.”