FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — As players hurried to get dressed in the New England Patriots’ locker room after they had beaten the Tennessee Titans 33-16 Sunday afternoon, big defensive lineman Alan Branch grabbed one of the locker room assistants and told him to make sure jersey No. 47 was washed and returned to its owner.

That jersey was worn by Joey Iosefa, a 24-year-old rookie fullback who introduced himself to Patriots fans with the force of a wrecking ball. Just ask Titans cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, who tried to tackle Iosefa in the second quarter and found himself tumbling backward after he was bulled over.

“I just wanted him to have the opportunity to have (his jersey),” said Branch. “You always want to remember your first game.”

It’s unlikely Iosefa will forget his.

He woke up Saturday morning to discover he had been promoted from New England’s practice squad to the 53-man roster. When the game ended Sunday, he was New England’s leading ball carrier with 51 yards on 14 rushes. He gained 15 yards on the play in which he plowed over Sensabaugh.

Branch said he became so excited after that run that he ran onto the field.

“We don’t thump on running backs (in practice) so I didn’t realize he had truck-stick ability like he does,” said Branch. “But he definitely showed everybody out there.”

Iosefa doesn’t want to make too much over his debut.

“I just go with whatever the coach wants me to do,” he said. “Just do my job.”

Iosefa, who was born in American Samoa, is simply the latest example of the Patriots’ next-man-up philosophy. He is on the roster because LeGarrette Blount is not.

Blount, the Patriots’ leading rusher with 703 yards, suffered a season-ending hip injury in a 27-6 win at Houston a week earlier. With Blount gone, everybody figured Brandon Bolden would get the bulk of the carries. But Bolden is an essential special teams player, so Bill Belichick wants to limit his carries.

And James White is good at what he does, which is catching passes and making people miss in open space, not running inside.

So up came Iosefa, who was a seventh-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last May after playing at Hawaii, where he gained 2,218 career yards. He’s listed at 6-foot tall and weighs 247 pounds, so it would seem that he would be a bruiser, not a breakaway threat.

He said he was ready.

“I think it felt good,” he said, when asked about his debut. “I felt confident going in. I have a lot of good preparations throughout the week, trying to get comfortable. It felt good to hit somebody beside my own teammates.”

Belichick obviously saw something in Iosefa to promote him over Montee Ball, the former Denver Broncos back who was signed to the practice squad last week. Iosefa has been with the team since Oct. 21, when he was signed to the practice squad, so he knew the offense a little better. He was cut by Tampa Bay on Aug. 30.

“He’s a grinder, hard-working kid,” said Belichick. “He’s gotten in a lot better shape since he’s been here, dropped a little weight, worked hard, obviously learned a new system, wasn’t here in training camp, so he put in a lot of extra time, got in a lot of snaps on the practice field and kind of earned his way to get a chance out there today based on hard work and consistent play in practice and the opportunities that he’s had for us.”

Everyone on the team, said Matthew Slater, is happy for Iosefa.

“Joey’s a great kid,” said Slater, one of the Patriots’ captains. “He’s got a good heart and I think everybody on the team is just happy to see him do well. He’s been working his butt off all year, maybe says two words a day, comes out and works hard and keeps to himself.”

That was obvious when Iosefa met the press at his locker. He didn’t feel he did anything special to warrant the attention.

Asked about his collision with Sensabaugh, he said, “I was trying to make a play, that’s all I tried to do,” he said. “I had the ball in my hand and tried to make the best of it. Whatever I see, I hit it.”

Next week, he might be back on the practice squad. With the Patriots, you never know. They have a different game plan for each opponent, and maybe Ball will be more valuable in next week’s plan.

But there’s no mistaking that Iosefa made a very loud impression Sunday.

“It wasn’t perfect,” said Belichick. “But he did what we asked him to do and he made some tough yards.”