FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Lunch had to wait. There were interviews to be done, so Trevor Bates placed his half-eaten sub into his locker and waited for the questions.

And smiled.

The 23-year-old Bates, a graduate of both Westbrook High and the University of Maine, barely could hide his joy of being a member of the New England Patriots. He understands, being on the practice squad, that could change – quickly. He could be cut, which is a occupational hazard for practice squad players, or picked up by another team, which would be good because he would be on the 53-man roster.

For now he’s thrilled to be in this locker room.

“Playing for New England, man, it’s huge,” he said Wednesday before practice. “Tremendous blessing … tremendous pride … a dream come true.”

Truthfully, Bates said he was a Philadelphia Eagles fan growing up. But playing for the Patriots, just 140 miles south of home, is pretty special.

“I think it adds an extra sense of pride, just to step on the field and be able to play for your home and represent New England, represent Maine, represent all the states in New England,” said Bates. “Again, it’s huge to have the fan base and support that I get, but I have to make the most of my opportunity.”

He knows he has work to do, especially joining an organization 10 weeks into the season. The Patriots (7-1) play the Seattle Seahawks (5-2-1) on Sunday night at Gillette Stadium in a rematch of the 2015 Super Bowl, a masterpiece of a game won by the Patriots 28-24 when Malcolm Butler intercepted a Russell Wilson pass in the end zone in the final seconds.

The 6-foot-2, 247-pound Bates was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the seventh round (pick No. 239) last April. He was on their practice squad until Oct. 5, when the Colts signed him to the 53-man roster. He played in the Oct. 9 game against Chicago. Four days later the Colts released him, much to his surprise.

“I was obviously disappointed,” he said. “But you learn very quickly that the business aspect of this thing is very important and comes first. They’ve got to do what’s best for the team.

“And obviously it worked out well for me. I was able to come back to my homeland and play ball for one of the greatest organizations in the league.”

After his release, Bates continued to work out in Indianapolis in hopes of getting another call. He tried to be patient, and believed in himself and his ability.

“I was trying to do whatever I could to take care of my body,” he said. “I tried to focus on that, tried to keep my mind sane.”

Then the Patriots called about two weeks ago, asking him to work out for them. Bates thought it went well but nothing happened at the time. Then he worked out for Detroit. Nothing happened there so he continued to train.

“I was … making sure I was prepared, staying in shape, staying explosive, staying strong so when I do get a call I’m ready to play ball,” he said.

The Patriots called last week. They announced his signing Monday.

Maine Coach Joe Harasymiak is not surprised Bates got another opportunity.

“Trevor is obviously a great representative of what our program is about,” said Harasymiak. “The kid works so hard. He’s always about the team. He does everything right, from his smile to his attitude.”

Bates, who was a three-time all-Colonial Athletic Association selection and led the Black Bears with 7.5 sacks in 2015, holds a special place in Harasymiak’s heart. He was the first framed photo that Harasymiak hung in his office, behind his desk. “That’s how much he means to me,” said the coach.

Bates is working at linebacker. He’s asking a lot of questions as he tries to absorb the Patriots’ defensive playbook. There are small differences in the way the Patriots do things that he’s learning.

“I’m trying to pick it up quickly and be productive with it,” he said.

As a member of the practice squad – meaning he can only practice with the team and not play in any games unless he’s signed to the 53-man roster – he competes in individual drills, then plays on special teams and scout teams, giving the starters a look at the opposition.

“I treat them like live reps,” he said. “I try to get the most out of them.”

Since the news of his signing, Bates has received plenty of text messages and phone calls from his former coaches and teammates at UMaine, as well as friends and family. If he’s eventually signed to the Patriots’ 53-man roster, Bates would be the fourth Maine native to suit up for New England, joining Augusta’s Dave Cloutier (1964), Biddeford’s Dennis Gadbois (1987-88) and West Enfield’s Matthew Mulligan (2013).

“Everyone is rooting for me, everyone is supporting me,” he said. “It’s great. I just want to make the most out of my opportunity.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]sherald.com

Twitter: MikeLowePPH