FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Sleep and study.

For Dont’a Hightower, the second of two first-round draft picks the New England Patriots selected last month, that’s what life is about these days.

Hightower, a linebacker from Alabama, was one of 20-or-so rookies attending the Patriots’ Rookie mini-camp at Gillette Stadium Friday and today, their first taste of life as a professional football player.

And that meant, at least to Hightower, that life has become simpler.

“Sleep and study,” he said, when asked what he does away from the field. “That’s about as much time as we have. Football is our life now so the only two things we get to do now is sleep and study.”

All seven of the Patriots draft picks were in the camp, as well as a group of undrafted free agents. More than half were defensive players, keeping in step with the Patriots’ obviously-conscious decision to upgrade the NFL’s most porous defense from a year ago.

They all come in with the same goal stated by Jake Bequette, a defensive end out of Arkansas drafted in the third round.

“Do whatever I can to help the team,” he said. “Just be here, be seen, work as hard as I can and just try to establish myself.”

And that can be intimidating when you walk into a locker room with nameplates such as “Brady” and “Welker” and “Gronkowski” and “Wilfork” and “Spikes” staring you in the face.

Bequette — whose name, he said, “is pronounced like Josh Beckett, only spelled differently” (though, after Thursday’s outing by the Red Sox pitcher, the rookie might want a different name to be associated with) — admitted to being a little bit in awe when he first stepped in.

“This team has plenty of great players,” he said. “To even be in the same locker room as guys like that is humbling. I want to come in here and prove that I belong with guys like that.”

For some of the rookies, the need to prove they belong is even greater. Like running back Brandon Bolden. He was undrafted coming out of Mississippi, where he ranked second in school history in touchdowns (33) and fourth in rushing yardage (2,604).

He signed with the Patriots on Thursday. His senior year was interrupted by a broken ankle and one-game suspension, both of which caused his draft stock to plummet.

“I’m just glad to be here,” he said.

Asked about the suspension and injury, he preferred to talk about what’s ahead.

“I don’t dwell on the past,” he said. “I keep moving. Things happen that you can’t control.”

In this camp, Bolden has as good a chance to impress the staff as does Hightower or defensive end Chandler Jones, the Patriots top pick out of Syracuse. Everyone, you see, is starting over.

“It didn’t matter what you did in college,” said Hightower. “It matters what you do when you get here, And we’re all here now, trying to make the best of it.”

Matt Patricia, named the Patriots defensive coordinator on Thursday, said it is important for these players to prove they can play at this level as quickly as possible. The mini-camp is as much an opportunity to see how the players think as it is to see how they play.

“The biggest thing is to get them indoctrined into what we do and get them on our schedule and our plan,” said Patricia. “Just get the chance to work with them and see what they can do.”

In the brief part of practice the media was allowed to watch, the Patriots coaches put the players through various stretching drills, then broke off into individual groups. The linebackers and defensive linemen worked on a tackling dummy, each earning a tip or two from the coaches, a couple earning a hint of praise.

Bequette, who loves to play golf and hunts (mostly ducks), said it’s important to remember why you’re here.

“College is done,” he said. “I’m a professional now. I need to work and act accordingly.”

Sounds like he’s going to fit in with the Patriots just fine.

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