Our reflections on Matt Light

May, 7, 2012
5/07/12
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On the day that the Patriots will hold a retirement news conference for offensive tackle Matt Light, three primary contributors to ESPNBoston.com's football coverage share their reflections on Light:

Mike Reiss
The Patriots are going to give Matt Light a first-class send-off on Monday morning, which is well deserved.

But if Light didn't feel so strongly about publicly thanking Patriots fans, he would have never signed off on it, because one the main things we've learned over the last 11 years is that it was never about Matt Light when it came to Matt Light. He never took himself too seriously.

[+] EnlargeMatt Light
AP Photo/Charles KrupaMatt Light, who has been protecting Tom Brady since 2001, hugs his quarterback after the AFC Championship Game.
As a football player, I thought Light's work was often underappreciated. The AFC East had some terrific edge rushers over the last decade (Jason Taylor and Aaron Schobel come to mind), and Dwight Freeney might as well have been in the division based on how often Light squared off against him. By nature of the position, Light could have one mistake and ace all his other responsibilities, and yet it would be the mistake that would garner more attention.

But aside from the player, I think there is a lot to respect about the person. I came to know Matt Light as a man of strong faith, with a loving family -- wife Susie and children Collin, William and Gracie. The courage the family showed when Collin was born with a congenital heart defect is inspiring (link here).

Light wasn't one to make excuses, even though he had good reason to most of the time. He was often one to crack a joke. He was smart to take advantage of many educational opportunities offered by the NFL. And his work with the Matt Light Foundation, helping others who are less fortunate, has been admirable.

The Patriots don't hold retirement ceremonies often -- they are reserved for the likes of Tedy Bruschi and Troy Brown -- but this is no mistake that Matt Light has a day of his own.

It is well deserved for what he did from end zone to end zone, and beyond.

Mike Rodak
For reporters, the open locker room period is one of the best chances to get a feel for a player’s personality. Some players quietly go about their business, while others are looser and more jovial with their teammates. When Matt Light walked into the room, you got the best of both worlds.

Over his 11-year career, Light was able to be the archetypal offensive lineman -- humble, focused and gruff -- while also letting his personality shine through. If the NFL created an award for Best Wit, Light would have been its perennial winner. Light had a knack for making reporters laugh, and his humor was always in good taste. Group interviews in front of No. 72’s locker were often the highlight of the day.

On the field, Light protected Tom Brady’s blindside for a decade, an accomplishment that speaks for itself. While he was an important part of five teams that played in Super Bowls, and a good soldier for head coach Bill Belichick, you never got the sense that Light allowed football to define him.

Light is now focused on his charitable efforts through the Matt Light Foundation, and he will surely approach it the same way he approached football -- always smiling, always joking, but getting the job done.

Field Yates
The Patriots' improbable run to a Super Bowl XXXVI championship was catalyzed by then second-year quarterback Tom Brady, but not to be forgotten are the contributions of then rookie left tackle Matt Light, who helped stabilize the play of an offensive line that was not previously perceived as an area of strength.

Since earning that starting role in his inaugural NFL campaign, Light remained largely entrenched as Brady's blindside protector for the entirety of his 11-year career.

He earned personal accolades and was recognized by his peers for standout seasons, but Light will be best remembered as a consistent anchor to the left side of the New England line that embodied the principles that head coach Bill Belichick fundamentally believes in.

Belichick has often expressed his goal to build a big, strong, fast, smart, tough and disciplined football team that consistently competes for championships. That goal has never been centered on collecting talent, but rather finding players that fit into the winning mix. Matt Light was that type of player.

He had a lighthearted demeanor in the locker room and a genuine dedication to the organization he played for, as was evidenced when he handled the duties of presenting owner Robert Kraft with a sentimental framed photo, on behalf of the team, after the passing of Kraft's wife prior to the 2011 season.

Light is engaging, thoughtful, and a player who consistently left it all on the field when he stepped within the white lines.

Belichick asks of his players just one thing, and that is that they do their job. That was rarely an issue for Light, who for 11 seasons consistently delivered on his coach's orders.

Job well done.

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