FOXBORO (CBS) – Matt Light has a tough time looking at pictures of himself.
“When I see myself on something, the first thing that comes to mind is awkward; extremely awkward,” he joked with WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche from Gillette Stadium on Monday.
Light officially announced his retirement from football after 11 season, all with the New England Patriots. To thank him for all that he’s done — five trips to the Super Bowl, three championships and four Pro Bowls – one of the many parting gifts the Patriots had for Light was an illustrated picture of himself in three football poses.
“They pulled out all the stops,” Light said, admiring the work of art. “It makes me look very agile; cat-like reflexes and the speed of a mongoose.”
Light Admires A Picture Of Himself, Sort Of…
Light announced his retirement in front of family, friends, teammates and fans at the Hall at Patriot Place in Foxboro on Monday. While he certainly never turns down the opportunity to give a good sound bite, he is not one to take the spotlight. That all starts with learning the Patriot Way, something Light is very familiar with.
Gallery: Matt Light: A Lifelong Patriot
“It’s always been awkward to hear people speak about me or things that I’ve been a part of, mainly because this organization has always stood for a team and it’s never been about one person. Even though this wasn’t about me as far as the game goes, it is kind of difficult when you have that much attention,” Light said. “I think just being able to express in my own words what this time has meant for me, that’s what this day was about. To thank the people that have been so instrumental in my career and really my life. As an adult I’ve spent most of my time here in New England; this has been my home. For my kids and my wife, friends and family that were able to come out and take part of this, this day was for them. To tell them how much I appreciate it.”
There were a lot of questions (and some criticism) surrounding the Patriots when they selected Light in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft, but he wouldn’t change anything about his career.
“I couldn’t imagine being at a better place. It’s so community oriented here,” he said of New England. “I see it in the kids leagues, the kid soccer leagues, the softball and all the things my kids are involved with. People take a real pride in family, doing things together; the real sense of community that you have here. It extends all the way through to professional sports. For everyone that stood behind me and just really helped me out along the way; helping me with the organization and giving me the time. I hope they know how much it’s meant to me and to my family.”
When asked about his teammates, the interview was interrupted briefly when Patriots center Dan Koppen, who has share the offensive line with Light for nine years, broke in to give Light a big hug. Their days of keeping defensive lineman from getting to Tom Brady together are over, but they will remain close.
“It’s always been about those guys,” Light said. “We had a little bit of a lull in 2008/09. We had a big transition period there, and I think Bill (Belichick) recognized we needed to do some things differently. From a player perspective, that all changed for me too in the fact that it is all about the guys you’re in that locker room (with). If it’s not a great environment — if the guys aren’t respectful of each other, if guys don’t treat people the way they should be treated — it’s a very difficult place to be. For me it’s always been about having great guys that I can play with, great guys that I can count on; just being part of that process is what has driven me to keep playing this game and keep being a part of. It’s always been about these guys.”
And although Light was a bit of a prankster, his teammates loved having him around.
“When there was a prank, either he was involved or blamed,” said Koppen. “He’s done so many, and most of them are on video. That’s the good thing.”
“Matt was good at never going too far,” said Logan Mankins. “There were a lot of funny ones and they were always enjoyed. Not by the person that was getting it, but the rest of the team we enjoyed it very much.”
Providing such a fun atmosphere, although sometimes nerve-racking for the target, let the Patriots relax during the rigors of an NFL season.
“It’s important; it keeps everything light around there,” said Mankins. “I’m 30 now but I still act like I’m 18 in the locker room and around the guys; we never grow up in there. We probably do things we probably shouldn’t be, but we enjoy the heck out of it.”