Matt Light went to five Super Bowls during his time with the New England Patriots, winning three of them. The former left tackle is still working hard, only now it’s to help youth gain different outdoor experiences through the Matt Light Foundation. To that end, Light’s foundation is helping fulfill a couple more dreams thanks to its Super Bowl raffle. He’s giving away a Super Bowl package, including two tickets, to the winner of a raffle. All you have to do is buy a $2 ticket (five minimum) at lightraffle.org before the entry deadline on Thursday at 4 pm. Light chatted with The Improper on the giveaway and his past Super Bowl experiences.
So what’s included in the Super Bowl package?
We’re doing two tickets to the game. They’ll be great seats. We’re doing airfare through JetBlue. And a hotel stay for Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. We’re throwing in VIP tickets to the Taste of the NFL, which is a very cool event, where they pair an NFL legend or player with a local chef from each city. All 32 teams are represented. There a lot of great names involved and they put on a whole show the whole night. So they’ll have two tickets to that as well for Saturday night.
It’s just this concept is really starting to take off now. We’ve done it for five years, but you really see it starting to take off now. Anybody can have the opportunity, instead of the traditional, auctioning something off and whoever has the most money in the room gets it. This is something where everyone can participate, either on an entry level, or if you want to up your chances, you can buy a lot more chances. The person who just won the one we did for the AFC Championship Game bought 25 tries and she won. I think it’s a great model where anyone can win. What this will do for our foundation is huge. We typically have a lot of people who say, ‘Hey, I wanted to support the foundation but it was cool because I gave the printout of the tickets to my niece. She waited the day of the drawing by the phone and it was cool for her to be a part of it because she learned something about your foundation.’ (Photo of Matt Light, courtesy of the NFLPA)
How much did you raise for the AFC Championship Game?
For that one, we raised $130,000, which was phenomenal. What that does for us, is it puts us years ahead when it comes to having the ability to expand certain things, add a little more programming and bring on more people that we didn’t think we’d have the ability to do. It’s a huge win for the foundation. We’ve been around since 2002, working with kids from all over the country. Our goal now is to try to sustain this thing forever, and this is going a long way in helping us reach that goal.
How different is it for you to see the Pats make the Super Bowl as an onlooker?
It’s great. I’ve really enjoyed watching them this season. The first couple of years, I was too busy hitting a lot of things on my list to really focus on the team. I kind of needed to step away from the game and get back to the real world. I definitely did that. I definitely took advantage of a lot of things I had to pass up while I was playing. Bill always had a unique way of telling us it. He said, ‘If there’s a drawer in your house somewhere and everything the outside world throws at you, you deal with that some other day. You put it all in that drawer. Once the season’s over, you can get to all those other things, but until that day, you’ve got a job to do.’ I’ve been going through that drawer for the past couple of years. And then this year, being able to watch what these guys have done at a lot of positions, and a lot of people have stepped up and contributed. It has been great. I’ve got enough guys on the team that I can still live through because I’ve played with them and spent a lot of time with them. It’s been fun to see the differences. Really in this playoff run, having home-field advantage and earning the right to play at home was such a key thing. It was great for me because I got to go to the games, and be there for it. To feel the excitement of the playoffs, especially the AFC Championship Game, it brings up a heck of a lot of good memories.
Speaking of home-field advantage. You do the narration now, for that pregame video, right?
Ha. I’ve never actually heard that live, which is a good thing. Like most people, I tend to want to hurl myself off the nearest cliff when I hear my voice.
Well, maybe you can fill James Earl Jones’ shoes some day. You played in five Super Bowls. Did that experience help by the fifth one?
Well, I think these two weeks leading up to the game are some of the more intense days as a player that you can ever go through. No matter how many times you go through it, you still have the same inputs, the same people. Typically, it’s magnified. It’s a real rat race to get everything figured out. If you’re married, it’s a whole other set of circumstances because you’ve got your wife’s family and your family. And you’ve got to make sure your wife has everything she needs. If you’ve got kids, god forbid you got little criminals running around like I did, you’ve got to make sure they’re all taken care of. It’s an amazing feat to be able to mobilize an NFL football team, let alone all the hangers-on and the family who want to go. So, it never gets any easier each time when it comes to prepping for the trip down, taking all your family and trying to make sure all the arrangements are made. And you’ve got a million or 2 million fans wanting to be there right alongside you, so they’re scrambling to get anything there. It’s definitely a difficult thing to navigate the Super Bowl experience as a player. But I would say the organization—from Bill, the player personnel people, the administrative people in the Patriots organization—is well equipped to handle something like this. They’re as regimented and detail-oriented as any person on Earth. Bill’s been there and done that, and he knows how to keep these guys focused and on track. It’s just not an easy thing to do.
Does any moment stick out more than another from playing in the Super Bowls?
Everything sticks out. They were all so unique and different. I can remember going down to New Orleans and you had all those security concerns with 9/11. And of course, the city of New Orleans being as wild a place as you can be. You had Mardi Gras mixing with 9/11 security concerns, and they’re trying to tell us, ‘There’s places in New Orleans you don’t want to go to.’ You always get these debriefings from the local police and the FBI. It’s really unique, and all those were always pretty wild. Each city and each town is so different. We were fortunate. You go to a place like Houston for the Super Bowl and it’s an hour and a half to get from one place in Houston to the other since it’s such a sprawling area. Contrast that to New Orleans, where you have about 4 billion people in one small, little area. To Jacksonville. To Phoenix. The good thing about this is, they’ve been in Phoenix before for the Super Bowl. They kind of know the lay of the land and they’ve spent time out there. They’ve already been through this, and I think they’re going to be great and taking advantage of everything they can.
Does anything change in the preparation from Bill? Do the players notice anything different in his approach?
Well, I think everyone feels it. We’re creatures of habit. People have talked about that in the past. You never really can fully understand it unless you lived it throughout a season or 11 seasons. Because we take advantage of every single second, and we have a schedule that we keep, and because we’re so programmable as players, when you introduce something as big as the Super Bowl, it changes everything. Everybody’s a little bit on edge and uncertain as to what to expect. That takes the preparation from the coaches, and everybody can sense that something is different. So Bill really has to emphasize what’s most important and try to keep people on track. I think the week is definitely something that’s completely different on many different levels for many different reasons. Overall, Bill’s always trying to take it back to: What is it that’s going to give us an edge. How can I get these guys to focus less on the distractions and more on the game plan? The little tiny things that will make this game seem more approachable. He’s going to be talking this week about halftime. You never talk about halftime. But he’s going to talk about it because halftime is going to be so different than any other game these guys have played that if he doesn’t make note of it, it’s going to seem like things are way off. He’s going to talk about the pregame, and how you shouldn’t get too amped up too early. There’s a ton of time between when you leave the field for warmups and come back on. And even when you’re back on the field, it’s three or four or five times longer from the time they get back on the field to when the actual kickoff is. This will be a real test for how you manage the expectations that the coaches have, the players have, and really educate them on what to expect leading up to this game.
What were the actual tips for halftime and pregame? Was it spent making more adjustments or extra time staying loose?
Typically for halftime, you run into the locker room, and offense and defense each take their side of the locker room. Coaches all convene as quickly as they possibly can. The coordinator will go over some keys. If the head coach wants to say something to one side or the other, he’ll do it. Then the position coach gets to you. All that happens one after the other after the other. Before you know it, very quickly you’re out the door and back playing the second half. In the Super Bowl, it’s a little more laidback. They’re going to get in, take their time. Coaches are going to spend a little more time talking about what they’ve seen, and the guys upstairs and what they’d like to see done. They’re going to have a much more relaxed feel. Everything will slow down, and there’s a lot more time for one-on-one conversation and Bill will have plenty of time to address them. And they’re going to give them a heads-up on what it all looks like. And they’ll know exactly what to expect.
In your view, do you think this deflated ball controversy will be distraction or motivation? Or neither?
I don’t know. It’s crazy to me. I don’t think it’ll be a motivator by any means. The guys are going to be motivated to go out there and win a championship. They’re not going to be motivated to get people to forget about something as meaningless as the amount of air put in a football. The bottom line is, I think it’s really disrespectful to Indianapolis. To think that their coaches and players place the amount of air in the ball as the reason for their loss is crazy. Those guys lost the game—and they know this, and they don’t need anybody to say it was air in the football. They lost the game because they didn’t execute to the level that the Patriots did. And that’s the end of the story. I think the National Football League does a really good job of feeding into these types of issues. I think the National Football League—and the people who speak on behalf of them—could have very easily said this is an issue that we’ll deal with and look into, end of story. They could have easily handled this better and not fed into the hype. I’m not sure if they don’t realize the sport is as popular as it is. But if they go look around and check ratings, I’m pretty confident in the job they’ve done so far. They don’t need to have this as part of the overall fanfare of the Super Bowl.
Did you have any doubts about the Patriots’ offensive line after those first few games, or did you think they might pull it together?
I had my doubts when they let Logan go, and that’s not to be disrespectful to the guys there. The team rallies around certain things, and when you’ve got a guy who has been there as long as he has been, that’s a tough adjustment for anyone to make. Not just the guys filling his shoes, but for that entire offensive line to function together and have an attitude and an edge. I was actually concerned when they let Logan go, but they’ve got a lot of guys who have experience. Sebastian (Vollmer) and Nate (Solder) are two great tackles. They both did a great job all season long, even with some of the people who said there were games where they struggled. You’re going to have that. I never worried about the one or two plays a game. It’s the whole body of work. If you look at the season as a whole, they had to get some guys some work to fill some gaps. Look at what (Brian) Stork did. Guys like Kline, who has been asked to do everything he can. Ryan Wendell going from center to guard.
It’s not an easy thing to do, and they did it all with a new coach with a drastically different approach to coaching the offensive line than Dante Scarnecchia. If you look at it all—the criticism and the praise—you’ll see you had a group of guys who performed at a high level throughout most of the season. And they got better week to week. I think they’re going into the final game of the year with a lot of confidence. They should. They should be a very confident group. And hopefully they’ll be a little healthier. If they can get a guy like Stork back on the field, it gives you a bit more options when it comes to players. You just never know what’s going to happen in the last game of the season. These guys have been taking a beating all year, and you want to have depth and have experience, so hopefully they’ll have that.
Any game plan that you think the Pats need to execute to get a win?
There’s a million things, and Bill will have his keys to the game offensively and defensively and with special teams. You can get real specific in that. Nobody knows how they’re going to attack them. They’ve got so many different ways in running their offense and defense that they’ll be able to keep Seattle off balance. He’s going to want to throw some wrinkles in there. He’s going to want to start the game a certain way. That game will prove itself out early.
From my perspective, I think that they have to be the aggressor, the team that’s taking it to Seattle. They’ve got to play with a ton of energy. They’ve got to come out and hit them in the mouth. They’ve got to set the tempo of that game early, and they’ve got to be able to sustain it throughout the game to come away with the win. Seattle, I would imagine is going to have the same approach. They live and die with the big plays and that defense hitting you in the mouth. And they get after quarterback, and make those types of plays. New England has to set that tempo early because they can play the same type of game. There’s only a couple of things that Bill really wants out of his team. He wants them to play a physical game and win those battles on the offensive and defensive line. And I think he wants a smart team. So, he’ll want them to be aggressive early and sustain that. That’ll be crucial to winning the championship.