When Jerod Mayo was a linebacker with the Patriots, there was a very different locker room dynamic than what exists in New England today. He remembers being a rookie in 2008 and walking into the locker room, where he’d see guys playing cards and hanging out. They did not have social media to entertain them.
“It was like Junior Seau, Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi – guys who had flip phones. They had flip phones for the longest time. They still had Blackberries in their pockets. So, they weren’t even really thinking about social media,” Mayo said on a conference call on Tuesday. “When you would go in the locker room, I would say that just the overall vibe, you were in there playing cards and things like that.”
Back then, Facebook was only four years old, Twitter was two, and neither Instagram nor Snapchat even existed. Today, social media use is at an all-time high and for professional athletes, the platforms are a part of the game. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady regularly posts hype videos. Wide receiver Julian Edelman shares Patriots-related memes and action photos. They give glimpses into their personal lives too, such as Brady’s text message from his daughter Vivian and photos from Kyle Van Noy, James White, and the McCourty twins (who run an account together) of their families and children.
The connection between players is just as much on the field as it is digital. Players poke fun at each other in the comments and leave hearts and fire emojis in support. Mayo, now a linebackers coach on the Patriots, said that he’s noticed how active the younger players are with social media and how they are tuning in to what is being said about them.
“The younger generation, they’re checking their social media and things like that,” he said. “But, I think the players around here do a good job, when they’re in the building, really focusing on football…I’m sure when they’re on their phones, they’re checking that stuff.”
Mayo believes his players do not buy into the criticism they see online (at least publicly).
“What people say on social media and things like that – I really don’t think they take much into that. You know, everyone isn’t a Patriots fan, so I think they realize that.”
He himself is active on social media today, posting photos of his family on Halloween, his vintage sports cards collection, and his new gig with the Patriots. Mayo also makes an effort to share motivational messages, and given how much his players are scrolling, he hopes those messages encourage his linebackers throughout the long NFL season.
“I read a lot. Sometimes people need those nuggets. I don’t like to post about just things, material things. I just like to drop little nuggets of wisdom,” Mayo said. “I’m hopeful, honestly, that my linebackers see those posts. It definitely helps motivate me. You know, the season is long. Sometimes you need those words of encouragement.”
“It’s definitely an up-and-down season, even though we’re sitting here at 8-1. Sometimes you’ve got to take a step back and realize that, and some of those quotes helps with that.”