- Mike Reiss, ESPN New England Patriots reporter
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INDIANAPOLIS -- There is a story that Bill and Marilyn Light sometimes tell that captures how their son hasn't changed over the years.
While Matt Light is the starting left tackle for the New England Patriots, the blindside protector of the Patriots' most important asset in quarterback Tom Brady, he's really a playful kid at heart. Everything is one big laugh.
The Lights had just had their lawn in Greenville, Ohio, resodded only to return home one day to see a large, white mark in the front yard. Marilyn launched a full investigation and figured where it would lead -- to her middle child, who was in junior high and had taken an interest in rockets and fireworks.
Turns out Light had manufactured a homemade explosive device with Drano, which is best used for cleaning drains. The explosion left an unforgettable mark on the resodded lawn, and since it was right near the front door, it was the first thing the Lights saw every time they entered and exited their home.
"There was never a dull moment," Marilyn said.
Those who know Light best say that's still true today; never a dull moment, always a laugh. Just ask his wife, Susie.
The two first met at Purdue University, where they had mutual friends and Light sometimes gave her a hard time. It was only because he liked her. Susie came to find that out when Light introduced himself to Susie's mother during parents' weekend and said, "Hi, I'm Matt Light, and I'm going to marry your daughter."
The two hadn't been on a date at the time.
"He started to send me emails after that, and that's when I kind of got the picture," Susie said. "We started hanging out more and more and the rest is history."
They married not long after and now have three children: Collin, William and Gracie.
How about a few more Matt Light stories?
"Give us a Bill Belichick minute here," Bill Light said with a chuckle.
"You have to put such a filter on these interviews," Marilyn added.
No doubt, there are plenty of stories when it comes to Matthew Charles Light, the 33-year-old blocker who might be the most underappreciated -- and funniest -- player of the Patriots' past 11 mostly magical seasons. He is one of only three Patriots players on the current roster to play in all five Super Bowls of the Bill Belichick era (2000-present).
While his consistency and top performance have been recognized at the Super Bowl over the past four days, he has also generated attention after missing Tuesday's media day festivities because of flu-like symptoms, while also being called out by Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora as a player who gets under his skin. Light predictably responded to both topics Wednesday with humor and sarcasm.
"I find all of it comical," Light said. "I don't read the papers, don't watch the news. A lot of family members keep me up to date. I think it's entertaining."
Light should be fine for Sunday's game, although he acknowledged that if the bug had come on Thursday or Friday, it could have made it tougher to play.
And when it comes to playing this game, Light, an avid outdoorsman, isn't your typical NFLer. Yes, he loves football, but he doesn't eat, sleep and drink it like others. That's not who he is.
"For me, when I look at this opportunity, going to five Super Bowls and being a part of a winning organization and a tradition of excellence, I just think about the things we've been able to do with that and the impact we've been able to make," he said.
"To me, that's the thing I'm probably most proud of. I love the rings and that stuff, and the recognition of being a football player is great, but the off-the-field stuff to me is really the most important."
Light's charity work is impressive. He purchased 500 acres in Greenville and has built an entire infrastructure from scratch that includes living space, electricity, running water, an amphitheater and cooking and dining areas. Here, the Light Foundation hosts challenged youth from across the country. He also provides scholarships to those in Massachusetts and Ohio.
"The whole idea was Matt's, to bring them into that camp and then stay in contact with them over the year, not just for a camp," Bill Light explained. "We had our first graduation class this year and it was real special for all of us. One of the kids came up to Matt and told him he didn't think he'd be alive if not for Matt. He's done a marvelous job."
In the most recent example of how Light uses his standing as an NFL player to benefit others, he raffled off tickets to Super Bowl XLVI.
"He's a football player, but first and foremost I think community and family is important to Matt. His foundation is No. 1," Susie Light said. "I think football is a vehicle for him to reach out to other people, and I feel blessed that my kids get to see that model for them -- that when you're put in awesome positions in life, the best way to take advantage is to give back and be thankful for what you have."
As for his football career, Light knows he's closer to the end than the beginning.
"I think there are aspects that get difficult as the years go on, whether it's physical limitations or things like that," he said. "But playing the game of football never gets old. It's always fun."
Light is signed through 2012 and still playing at a high level, so there's no reason to think he won't be back next season if he so desires. But after that?
Naturally, he answers with a good sense of humor.
"When you start getting these questions, you realize you're getting old, man," he said, never circling back to provide the answer.
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.
Matt Light keeps his quarterback safe and his Patriots teammates laughing.