Joe Thuney reflects on ridiculous rookie season with Patriots

Thrust into a starting role to start the 2016 season, former NC State offensive lineman won a Super Bowl with New England

Ron Chenoy—USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots offensive guard Joe Thuney (62) during the second half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field.

RALEIGH — With 8:31 remaining in the third quarter of the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots trailed 28-3 with little hope in sight for a fifth Lombardi Trophy. It was a sobering sight for Joe Thuney, who lost just two games during his rookie season and hadn’t witnessed his team take a loss in nearly three months.Then it all turned around.The Patriots offense scored on four straight drives — three touchdowns and a field goal — while New England’s defense registered four straight stops. After forcing overtime for the first time in Super Bowl history, James White scored his second straight rushing touchdown to complete the largest Super Bowl comeback ever.Thuney got a front-row seat for it all. The starting right guard cleared a hole for White on the rushing score that sent the game into overtime and was the first to greet him in the end zone. He then watched from his knees in the middle of the field as White crossed the pylon before immediately falling to the ground in disbelief.”We just kept playing and knew we were never out of it with [Tom] Brady under center,” Thuney said. “It was so incredible to be a part of that game. Seeing the referee throw his hands up after that final touchdown was euphoric. It’s not something I even dreamed of seeing in my first year with [New England].”Not many players land in the situation Thuney did last year. A third-round pick out of NC State, Thuney was thrust into the starting role at left guard over veteran players.He not only won the starting spot, he kept it.Thuney had a few hiccups throughout the season — but what rookie lineman doesn’t? — while blocking for two-time MVP quarterback Tom Brady. He helped lead the way for Brady and the Pats to finish at 14-2 and earn the No. 1 seed. And that was all in his first season in the NFL.”It was a wild year,” Thuney said. “Fortunate to land with a great team, great franchise in the Patriots organization. I’m still very humbled by the whole experience and can’t wait to get back at it and prove myself again.”Last Saturday, Thuney returned to Carter-Finley Stadium for the Kay Yow Spring Game for the first time since his Pro Day on March 21, 2016. At that point, the 2016 All-American lineman — the first for NC State since 1979 — was simply a spectator after showing out at the NFL Combine.After being a part of five spring games during his time with the Wolfpack, the former no-star recruit who was brought in by former head coach Tom O’Brien was actually able to enjoy one from the sidelines. It was Dave Doeren who gave him the starting role at NC State in 2013, a title he never relinquished en route to a memorable tenure.Returning to Raleigh, however, was about more than just watching football for Thuney.”This place is such a welcoming city and everyone is so good to me,” Thuney said. “It’s snowing in Boston right now, so this was definitely needed. [Laughs] I’m really thankful I got to spend five years here. It helped shape me into who I am as a player.”This summer, Thuney admitted he expects to once again fight to keep his starting spot. With another NFL draft approaching and myriad veteran offensive linemen clamoring for a chance to block for Brady, starting for a fifth straight season at the college and NFL level combined won’t be easy.As for now, Thuney is just waiting to get his first Super Bowl ring from an unforgettable season finale.”I haven’t even been fitted for it yet,” Thuney said with a smile. “That whole process is kind of new to me, unlike a lot of the other guys on the team. We’ll see when that happens, but hopefully soon.”