During a decorated, 11-year career in New England, left tackle Matt Light played in six AFC Championship games. He won't be protecting Tom Brady's blindside when the Patriots play their seventh conference title tilt in 12 seasons on Sunday -- but he could be sitting with you.
With a bit of help from one of its founder's former teammates, The Matt Light Foundation is currently raffling off a prize package that includes two hotel rooms in the Renaissance Boston Patriot Place Hotel, dinner at Davio's Northern Italian Steakhouse, parking, four club-level tickets for the Patriots-Ravens game (donated by Rob Gronkowski), and passes to the field-level area where players meet their families after the game.
And perhaps the best part?
"I'm going to be with them the whole time," Light said, "though they can definitely opt out of having me if they don't want a large mammal traveling around with their crew."
Chances to win are just $2 each -- you must buy a minimum of five -- and are available at mattlightfoundation.org or through netRaffle.org. The winner will be drawn Friday afternoon, so chances must be purchased by 2 p.m. that day.
In the meantime, here are five questions with the tackle-turned-ESPN analyst who brings the perspective of having played in so many of these big games -- and in so many games against the Ravens.
Q: In the moment it's hard to think about it, or reflect, but with another AFC title game in Foxboro, do you look back at your career now and gain even more of an appreciation for the things this team did while you were here and what your team accomplished?
A: I think you always appreciate it more when you're out of it, and that goes for anybody in any position -- but even as a player in the middle of my career, going through an injury and not being part of the team, even at that those times you kind of think about it and you appreciate it more than when you're playing. Being completely removed from the game now, there's definitely this sense -- especially during these playoffs -- that I was fortunate, and I was part of something that will forever leave its mark.
These kids that grow up in the New England area, that go to school with my kids in the Foxboro school system, they have no idea what pain some of these other people went through because their entire lives the Patriots have just been at the top of the top of the list. When I think back on it, it's definitely rewarding to know that I was a part of that, and just how special it is.
I send that out to some of these guys that are playing now: You do everything you can to take advantage of this opportunity in so many ways. All the little things, details, more time, more film study, more everything. But at the end of the day you also have to tell yourself you've done everything you can to prepare and go out there and enjoy it.
Q: A month ago, at Matt Light Night, you said that as much as anything you miss "competing for something most people don't compete for." Does that sense of missing the game reach a whole other level right now, as your ex-teammates play for a trip to the Super Bowl?
A: Yeah, 100 percent. I think everybody can realize that as a football player that's gone into retirement, I'm never going to miss feeling beat up and all that stuff. But I truly don't have a longing to be out there and competing -- until I see this. Until I see these guys going out there and it's the real deal where you have to perform at a level most people can't comprehend. That's not a slight to anyone out there in the real world, it's just, literally, unless you're in that position you just can't realize what these guys go through and how many sacrifices they've made to get to this position.
The part of me that's very envious and wishing I could have that back, because it is very, very hard to find outside of that football realm. In any industry there's always the people at the top, then the rest of the group; that's what I miss. I miss being able to do things at a level most people can't. When you're back in the real world and your feet are back on the ground, it's hard to find in a lot of cases.
Q: Are the Ravens as tough a team to play against as they appear to be from my view, and as their reputation suggests?
A: Look, they're very consistent in what they do. They've got veteran leaders and there's a lot of reasons why they've had success. They were in this position last year and they've been very, very competitive in every phase of the game. If it wasn't enough for them to go into Denver and be on the road and battle back from what looked like a sure loss, you look at their players and tell yourself it's going to be a definite dog fight, just like it was last year.
It's always physical. They pride themselves on that. They wear that on their sleeve. It's not a matter of 'will it be a physical game,' it's a question of 'how much more physical can it get.' At this time of year, that physical style of play is what helps you win games because not a lot of teams can carry it through all the way to this point.
Q: What did you make of Brendon Ayanbadejo's comments about the Patriots offense being a 'gimmick' and the hurry-up attack being a strategy that he doesn't respect? (Light said he hadn't seen the Tweets himself, so we told him what the Ravens' linebacker had written.)
A: It's like anything else. When I was a little kid and I was battling somebody at some video game, I always accused them of having the codes or knowing some special move that they won't tell me. The truth of the matter is, like anything else, when you can't figure out how to beat something, you just start blaming. That works for some. It makes you feel better inside, for some people, and I'm sure he feels a lot better to get that off his chest.
Q: On a radio interview this morning, you referred to Sunday as 'Ray Lewis's retirement party.' How do you expect the game to go?
A: Never having that crystal ball thing work out for me, I'll just say it's going to be everything it should be. It's going to be two teams that come in very well prepared. I know Josh, and Josh, and Ivan, and Dante, and all these guys on the offense -- and Bill -- all these guys are spending every second of every day leading up to this thing, and they're going to have a gameplan that's incredible. I think defensively the same thing. They're going to take advantage of their strengths against the Ravens' weaknesses, and it's going to be a really, really, really, really interesting start to this AFC championship game. Then, as they start showing their hand, and the cards are dealt, it's going to be who has the better adjustments.
Really what it all boils down to is who's going to execute better, and I think there's a lot of things that can go in the Pats' favor. But you've got a team that can win on the road, and has a lot of confidence, and they're playing for the Ray effect and everything else. We'll see. I think we'll figure it out pretty early who's got the juice, so to speak, and I've got a good feeling that'll be our Pats. As long as they can maintain that, and make the adjustments, and keep executing, they'll pull it out and we'll be heading to New Orleans.
We'll give Ray a good send off. He's been a hell of a player for a long time.
The author is solely responsible for the content.