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Alum signs with Pats, hits the practice field

Jason Vega, a former outside linebacker for the Northeastern Huskies, signed a three-year contract with the New England Patriots in January and participated in the team’s first practice of the season last weekend.

“I envision myself playing this fall and remaining in the NFL,” said Vega in a phone conversation from the team’s workout facility in Foxboro, Mass. “Right now, I have an opportunity to get better and move forward in my career.”

Vega graduated from Northeastern in 2010 with a degree in criminal justice. In 41 games for the Huskies, the 6-foot-4-inch, 255-pound star amassed 137 tackles, 14 sacks, and five fumble recoveries and earned a spot on the Colonial Athletic Association’s Academic All-Conference team.

In spite of his football skills and raw athleticism—Vega can run the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds—the talented Husky did not get selected in the 2010 NFL Draft. Instead, he spent the summer on the practice squad for the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats before a groin injury led to his release.

He returned to Northeastern, working in the athletics department as an academic adviser and thinking his playing days were over. But, as he soon found out, “being around athletes made me realize that I had an urge to return to the game.”

Vega spent the next two years playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL, racking up 66 tackles and 12 sacks. “I experienced a sense of relief because I was back doing something that I truly enjoyed,” Vega explained. “I still had that competitive fire.”

The 25-year-old Brockton, Mass., native is happy to be home, playing football where he learned the game’s X’s and O’s. He’s had the opportunity to meet Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and many of the team’s top players, including defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and quarterback Tom Brady, whom he characterized as one of the “leaders in the locker room.”

“He’s very professional and always working hard to improve his craft,” said Vega, who counts former Patriots outside linebacker Willie McGinest as one of his favorite players. “I look at this as an opportunity to improve and compete against these guys.”