Former Patriots offensive tackle Matt Light protected Tom Brady’s blindside for more than a decade, winning three Super Bowls and racking up three Pro Bowl appearances. After retiring in 2012, he’s worked in the media, helped start Keel vodka and taken a more active role in the Light Foundation, which helps kids spend more time in the outdoors. He chatted with us about life after football ahead of his induction ceremony into the Patriots Hall of Fame on Sept. 29 at Patriot Place.
What was your reaction when you got elected? When I got the call, it was an extremely special moment. … I was actually turkey hunting when I talked to Mr. Kraft. I wanted to whisper, but I thought that would be the wrong thing to do. Not that it ruined my hunt—I still had success that morning. But I was actually in the field turkey hunting when he called.
Do you have a new Sunday routine in retirement? I do. It involves hardly anything ever with football. I spend a lot of time outdoors. In the fall, I was always torn: I wanted to get out in the woods and do something on that end. That’s pretty much what I do at this point. A lot of work with the foundation, a lot of work with the hunts and the different things I do from that perspective. Not a whole lot with football, but I do stay up to speed. They have this beautiful thing called television, where you can replay just about anything that’s ever aired.
Do you have a favorite practical joke from your career? There’s so many. When you’re there for 11 years and you’re with so many Neanderthals for almost 14 hours a day every day of the week, you have to do something stupid on a regular basis just to keep your sanity. I had a lot, but I don’t know about a favorite one. We had player-to-player stuff. We’d mess with assistant coaches. I think Bill [Belichick] is already afraid of what I might say in my speech, but I’ll keep him out of it.
Have you gotten him a few times? Oh yeah, documented. I shocked him with a remote one time, but he didn’t find that funny. That was a good one with a mouse. He and I have had some special moments. But when you’re doing something that intense and there’s that much pressure, you’ve got to have a little fun when you can.
What part of the work with your foundation do you find most rewarding? Well, the whole thing. We launched the foundation in ’01, my rookie season. We started out with one thing in mind, and it morphed 4-5 years later into something different when we found a real niche. We’re celebrating 15 years of the foundation this year, and it’s been an incredible run, but we’re just getting started. We’re just now able to really able to crank things up. We built the foundation of the foundation with a 600-acre facility in Ohio, where kids come in from all over the country. It’s utilized throughout the entire year, which is really cool. We’ve already had more than 6,500 kids come through the camp this year alone. It’s not about numbers, it’s about impact, but it just shows how much is taking place. We just had our annual board meeting, and I’m excited I’m hiring an executive director for the first time, and we’re adding to our staff.
What’s next for Keel Vodka? It’s been a great 2018. When we started talking about this concept of a premium, light spirit—and we trademarked it—it fell on deaf ears. Nobody knew what it was. Four-and-a-half years ago, we were having a conversation of, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have this product that’s really healthy? It’s a good alternative to beer and wine, but you don’t have to worry about being ‘that guy’ a few drinks into the night.” What we’ve seen this year is the whole industry is making this shift to a lower ABV. I wasn’t always the brightest bulb when it comes to making decisions when I was younger, but you hit a point and you realize—especially when it comes to people today where you spend $300,000 on your education, jobs are competitive—that if you screw up and do something stupid, it’s going to cost you. But yet, people also want to go out and be social. That’s where we fit in. Keel represents the idea that you want a premium product, you want something that tastes good, but you also want to be healthy and mindful of how much you’re drinking. We’ve gone through a major expansion. We did a new round of funding. That went great, and we’ve got great partners on board. We’re going to continue to do well in our own backyard in New England, which is a great market. And we’ve taken the expansion into Georgia, Colorado, Florida. Tennessee is starting shortly. We’re in Indiana, the heartland of America, which is a good test of what it’s going to do away from the coast.
Anything advice you can pass along about playing the season after a Super Bowl loss? They do a good job in New England of managing that internally. And if you win, it may be even worse. You win and all you hear in the time period leading up to the season kickoff is how it doesn’t matter. It’s a never-ending mantra. On the flip side, when you lose it, it’s as important that you move on. There’s a lot of things you study and understand that could’ve gone better. Everything is a teaching lesson for Belichick and his staff. It’s just the mindset of knowing that each season is vastly different and having the motivation that you have coming off a loss like that. And knowing that if you’re going to get that far, let’s make sure we win it this time. It’s something that can be beneficial. At the end of the day, this is going to be a very different team in every aspect. That’s just the way it is season to season. It doesn’t have anything to do with the number of guys who come back, but how the guys who are there now play together. That’ll be fun to watch this year.
There’s a lot of uncertainty at your old position. Are you keeping an eye on that? Yeah, I think all the reports and what you see on film so far speak highly of the decision to bring in Trent Brown. I think losing Isaiah Wynn to injury is a tough one. I think they felt really good about him, and he’s a guy who they felt gave them their best option as the all-around guy who can fill in and backup at any position. I think when you lose a guy like that, and you lose anyone you were counting on that early in the season, it’s going to be tough. But it looks like Trent Brown is a large mammal. If he can do the types of things they need him to do, he’ll fit in nicely.
How do you feel about making the Patriots Hall of Fame? The way you look at a situation like the Hall of Fame as being a guy who’s been out of the game for a while, it’s definitely not something that was on my radar. I never even imagined as an offensive lineman that there would be a lot of discussion or any people that would throw my name in the ring. I personally played with some of the best players to ever come through New England during my 11 years. For me, when I think about the Hall of Fame, there are a lot of guys who would come to mind before I would say anything about myself. I guess that to be on a list with guys like Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour leading up to the announcement for this year was very cool and very humbling. When I played, I approached every day the same. I enjoyed what I did. I loved to compete, and I just felt fortunate to be able to do it as long as I did. I tended to have a lot of fun along the way, too, with practical jokes and whatnot. For me, football was just part of my life and it wasn’t something that I put a lot of stock in in terms of making it into the Hall.