New Patriots TE Dalton Keene looked up to these three players growing up

Erin Walsh
NBC Sports Boston

Patriots tight end Dalton Keene is ready to get things rolling in New England, and he said he's been inspired by some pretty talented NFL players over the years. 

The Virginia Tech tight end noted that one of the players he's looked up to in his young career is none other than former Patriot Rob Gronkowski.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

"Yeah, he was definitely fun to watch and I believe he's probably the best there is," Keene said on a conference call Saturday. "It was really cool to watch him and it's kind of crazy that now I'm kind of playing for the same team that he once was on. Because I was a little kid and watching him on TV – it's just crazy that I'm in his shoes right now. I'm privileged."

Gronkowski is well on his way to earning himself a spot in the Hall of Fame, but he's not the only tight end Keene has looked up to. The 21-year-old said he tries to model his game after San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle

"Yeah, I think probably the best for me is George Kittle," Keene said. "I think he's a super-versatile tight end and they do a lot of different things there. That's what I pride myself on doing, being a versatile tight end and being able to do a lot of different things – playing from the slot, or playing fullback or to play traditional tight end. [Inaudible] I think he does that all really well."

Listen and subscribe to Phil Perry's Next Pats Podcast here:

As for who the third player is... well, it's actually former Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. 

"Well, I used to be a quarterback actually growing up all the way through Little League and high school. So, I was a huge Peyton Manning fan actually," Keene said. "I had a Peyton Manning Fathead on my wall from when he was with the Colts. He's probably my No. 1. I was following him for forever. [Inaudible] I'm a huge fan of his."

So, that's a pretty talented group of role models. Keene is hoping can incorporate aspects of their games into his. He'll also be able to grow alongside the Patriots 91st overall pick in Devin Asiasi. The two tight ends were actually roommates at the NFL Scouting Combine, so maybe there's a strong relationship there to build off as they start out in New England.

New Patriots TE Dalton Keene looked up to these three players growing up originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

What to Read Next