FOXBOROUGH — Matt Light had pranked Bill Belichick so many times, on so many levels, that Belichick figured Light’s retirement ceremony on Monday was the last chance he had at payback.
Belichick took his share of verbal jabs at the offensive lineman, who bid farewell to football after 11 seasons, all with the Patriots.
Light was the one who once went into Belichick’s office and replaced the mouse that was originally attached the coach’s computer with one that jolted 400-volts of electricity into the poor soul who touched it.
“For whatever reason,” Light said. “I thought it would be comical to put that in Bill’s office.”
It wasn’t just that Belichick shocked himself not once but twice trying to work on his notes (“He doesn’t give up easy,” Light said), it was that because of the prank he actually lost all his work.
The rest of the day, coaches and staff were warning Light that he had gone too far.
It wasn’t the first time he had gotten himself into trouble, and it wouldn’t be the last.
“He was always the suspect,” Belichick said. “Even if it wasn’t him.”
But after 11 years during which Light was one of the rocks not just on the Patriots’s offensive line but in the locker room and around the organization, Belichick said the life that Light brought to the franchise would be missed.
“That the way it is with Matt,” Belichick said. “He had a great sense of when to lighten up and when to tighten up.”
Light was at the heart of the Patriots renaissance and he won three Super Bowl titles and was a four-time Pro Bowler, but after a long career in the trenches it was assumed inside and outside the organization that Super Bowl XLVI in January would be his swan song.
“There are few things that have brought me more joy over my career than to be a part of really the rebuilding of the Patriots organization … To be a part of it, I feel truly honored and blessed.”
“There’s so many things that I’ve been thinking over for the past few months and so many different people have been a part of this process,” he said. “Eleven years ago I was just some kid from the midwest who had a fairly decent career at Purdue University that somehow made it into the draft and ended up in an area that I had never heard of.
“It didn’t take long for me to feel at home and it didn’t take long for me to find my place.”
A second-round pick out of Purdue in 2001, Light reminisced on being a rookie, showing up late to meetings, seemingly being unable to get anything right.
“As Dante [ Scarnecchia] would say, ‘I didn’t know if the ball was pumped or stuffed.’ I had a long way to go.”
Ultimately he became Tom Brady’s bodyguard, fending off some of the most dangerous defensive linemen in the league, including Dwight Freeney, whom he called his toughest rival. He also became one of the team’s leaders, someone the offensive linemen leaned on.
“Guys usually follow guys that have been through it and lead by example and everyone can see that Matt, he’s been through it,” guard Logan Mankins said. “The way he carried himself and the way he played, the way he worked out and trained, it’s easy to look at someone like Matt and follow him.”
Light said while he was preparing his speech, he pored over quotes until he found one from Aristotle that sounded like a philospher’s translation of something Belichick says over and over again.
“You are what you do repeatedly,” the philosopher said. “So your excellence isn’t an act, it’s a habit.”
When Light heard it, he heard Belichick’s voice.
“It’s always ‘Do your job,’” Light said. “We hear it 5,000 times a week. ‘Just worry about yourself.’ ‘Don’t try to do somebody else’s work.’ ‘Make it part of your routine.’ ‘Keep striving to do it better and better.’
“So I think that the excellence that we all shared as an organization, teammates, friends and everything else, it’s not just an act. It’s a habit. It’s how we try to live our lives. It’s what we try to do day in and day out and I hope that habit continues.”