Add this to the list of accomplishments by former Colorado left tackle Nate Solder.

He made a proud program relevant once again on the first day of the NFL draft when he was selected Thursday by the New England Patriots with the 17th overall pick in the first round.

New England actually made a late visit to see Solder in Colorado earlier this week after Solder`s planned visit to Foxborough was canceled.

"I was sitting there hoping and praying that they pick me because that`s such a great organization," Solder told reporters in a conference call.

Solder transitions from blocking for the likes of Tyler Hansen, Cody Hawkins and Rodney Stewart to protecting quarterback Tom Brady`s blindside.

"You know, I think Tom Brady is a great quarterback, and I think all my teammates are great players and I`m looking forward to the privilege of playing for the Patriots," Solder said when asked about blocking for Brady in the future.

Actually, Solder could end up playing either tackle position for the Patriots who could try to re-sign free agent MattLight. Fellow tackle Sebastian Vollmer would be paired with Solder if Light does not return. Solder noted he has never played on the right side.

Later in the evening Belichick indicated he has no plans to try Solder on the right side of the line.

"He`s played left tackle," Belichick told reporters. "That will be his position in the National Football League.



Solder, who received the news while watching the draft surrounded by family, friends and television cameras from the NFL Network and ESPN at the family`s horse ranch in Leadville, is the first Buff to be drafted in the first round since 2003.

Solder said he received congratulatory phone calls from Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

He is the fifth CU offensive lineman to be taken in the first round and the 23rd Colorado player in history to become a first-round pick.

Nate Solder, left, and his college roommate Zak Franklin watch the NFL Draft on tv Thursday night.
Nate Solder, left, and his college roommate Zak Franklin watch the NFL Draft on tv Thursday night. (Karl Gehring/Denver Post)
Only 13 other Buffs have been selected earlier in the draft than Solder, who grew up in Buena Vista.

Solder was the second tackle taken in the draft behind USC`s Tyron Smith, who was the ninth selection by Dallas. The Cowboys were one of four teams that asked Solder to make personal visits to team headquarters in advance of the draft. The others were Indianapolis, Washington and the New York Giants.

Prior to the draft, Solder was reluctant to name a favorite team or one he hoped would select him, but after he was taken by the Patriots, he made it clear that he was thrilled with the way things turned out. He said he is excited about working with New England offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.

"I could tell he was an absolutely great coach and I was hoping and praying -- though I didn`t want to put in my mind to go there, but I`m so honored to be there," Solder said.

Solder is the second Buff to be drafted by Belichick, joining former CU cornerback Terrence Wheatley who was taken by the Patriots in the second round in 2008.

At nearly 6-foot-9 and 318 pounds with agile feet that first had him playing tight end in Boulder, Solder has the potential to play for years in the league. He is aware of that potential and spoke about it with the NFL Network in a pre-draft feature in which he said, "You`re going to have a guy here that`s going to be your All-Pro left tackle 15 years down the road. And if that`s what they want, then I`m the guy for them."

Solder proved to be tough and durable throughout his CU career. From the time he became a fulltime starter at the outset of his sophomore season in 2008 through his senior season in 2010, the Buffs snapped the ball 2,548 times on offense. Solder was on the field for all but eight of those plays.

He allowed only five sacks in three seasons as a starter in a total of 36 games.

As a senior, Solder became a consensus All-American and was a finalist for the Outland Trophy, given annually to the nation`s best interior lineman. He was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive lineman of the Year.

Solder wasn`t just a football player at CU. He also earned accolades for his academic performance and citizenship. Solder graduated prior to his senior season and was named one of 16 finalists for the William Campbell Trophy, also known as the academic Heisman. He received an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship from the National Football Foundation in December as part of that honor.

In an interview Wednesday before the draft, Solder said the whirlwind of workouts and interviews during the past five months will be an experience he will never forget.

"It was actually really extremely fun," Solder said. "I`ve had a great time. I`ve been training really hard. There has been a lot of stress. I`ve had a lot of very unique experiences in terms of people I`ve met and places I`ve gone. What can I say? It`s a dream come true.

"But now I`m glad for it to be over. All good things must come to an end and I think it`s kind of worn out its stay. I`m ready for the next thing. I`m ready for the next step for sure."