NE Roots: Jermaine Wiggins on playing youth hockey in Eastie, Magic-Bird, and talking trash to Jose Canseco

[get_snippet] [theme-my-login show_title=0]
(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The latest edition of our “New England Roots” series features former Patriots tight end Jermaine Wiggins. Wiggins grew up in East Boston before playing college football for Georgia and in the NFL. An undrafted free agent, he would go on to a nine-year career in professional football with the Jets, Patriots, Colts, Panthers, Vikings and Jaguars. A member of the 2001 Super Bowl champions — he had a 10-catch performance in the Snow Bowl playoff win over the Raiders — his greatest success came in 2004 with Minnesota when he had a career-high 71 receptions for 705 yards and four touchdowns. He currently works at a football analyst for NESN and is host of Wiggy's World podcast.

BSJ: What was your youth sports experience like in New England when you were growing up?

Jermaine Wiggins: It was excellent, as far as sports. I was a Boys & Girls Club kid in East Boston, and they provided for me — and a lot of other kids — a space where we wouldn’t have to get caught up in the drugs or the violence of the streets, all the negative stuff that might have been going on, like going to jail or being killed. We didn’t have to worry about that, because we had sports. It was about getting off the streets and having a place to go where you could feel safe and play sports with kids in your own neighborhood, or against kids in different parts of the city. That was an excellent experience for me at a young age, because it provided a place for kids like me to do and put me on the right track.

What’s your most vivid youth sports memory?

That’s a good question. I had a lot of good ones, but the one that really stands out the most for me above everything else was when I got the chance to play hockey with the East Boston Mustangs, and we won mini one-on-one. That was big time for me. Also, getting a chance to play in the Boston Neighborhood Basketball League (BNBL) in the city was huge. I was a basketball and hockey guy growing up — I really didn’t start playing football until later in life. But those were really great for me, getting a chance to play against different kids in different parts of the city — not just my own neighborhood.

Favorite Boston sports team growing up?

I would say my favorite team … I mean, I was a fan of all the teams, but really, growing up, I was a