FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) – Randall Gay’s family tree has sprouted a few new branches since he won a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots.

Back in his native Louisiana during the offseason, Gay noticed a lot of people were noticing him.

“You’ve got a lot more cousins when you go home after a year like that,” Gay said. “But it’s all good.”

Gay’s rise from undrafted rookie free agent to starting cornerback was one of the best stories of the Patriots’ run to a third Super Bowl title in four years.

A broken arm sabotaged his senior season at LSU, but Gay hooked on with the Patriots, survived a hamstring injury that cost him several weeks of training camp, then beat out veteran Terrell Buckley to make the roster.

When starting corners Ty Law (broken foot) and Tyrone Poole (knee) were lost for the season, Gay stepped in and started 12 games, including all three playoff contests. He had two interceptions during the regular season and returned one of his two fumble recoveries for a touchdown.

He also had a game-high 11 tackles in the Patriots’ 24-21 win over Philadelphia in Super Bowl XXXIX. Most came against Terrell Owens, who caught nine passes for 122 yards.

“It was a real busy game for me,” Gay said. “Being on a player like Terrell, you know coming into the game that he’s going to make plays. You cannot stop a player like that. You just have to keep competing every play, no matter what.”

Gay wasn’t the only surprise in the New England secondary last season. The rash of injuries forced linebacker Don Davis to play safety and wide receiver Troy Brown to fill in at cornerback in passing situations.

The Patriots ranked 17th against the pass, but they tied for seventh in interceptions with 20. They also allowed 18 touchdown passes; only six teams surrendered fewer.

Despite the happy ending, Gay sees room for improvement.

“I’m so tough on myself, I would give myself a C-minus,” he said of his rookie season. “I want A’s. I will never give myself A’s, but that’s what I’m shooting for.”

Holding onto a starting job this season won’t be easy. Law has left, but Poole is healthy again. The Patriots also traded for veteran Duane Starks, signed Chad Scott as a free agent and used a third-round draft pick on Ellis Hobbs of Iowa State.

“This is a competition league,” Gay said. “Everybody’s competing all the time. We knew they were going to bring in some good corners. We expected that, and that’s what we wanted.”

AP-ES-08-04-05 1403EDT

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