FOXBORO -- Matt Light retired from the New England Patriots and the NFL Monday morning. The offensive tackle, a Patriot for all 11 of his career's seasons, ended his playing days before a crowd of family, friends, and reporters.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft was first to speak. He began by addressing, then dismissing, the doubt football fans and analysts had in the team's second round pick in 2001's draft.
"On the field, Light was a tenacious competitor who had one of the toughest jobs. Every week he's be going up against the greatest athlete on the defensive lineman who was coming after our quarterback's blindside. Off the field, he was the guy who kept it L-I-G-H-T for everyone else. He brought humor and hijinks to the locker room and meeting rooms since the days we drafted him.
"But I personally admire most about Matt is that he contributed to the team both amazing on the field and in the locker room. His impact on our community, we still feel the legacy, both here in New England and back in Ohio he's been making a very positive impact on the lives of children, and is the model of what we consider to be a true Patriot."
Head coach Bill Belichick next stepped to the podium. In a rare moment, he abandoned his usual gruffness for nostalgia.
"It's with a lot of mixed emotions I get up here today to talk about Matt Light," Belichick smiled. "We kind of got off to a rocky start that rookie year, with my brilliance and foresight, I decided Matt, really even though he played left tackle at Purdue extremely well, that he would be better suited to play right tackle for us. We put him over there at right tackle."
It's no secret the move failed miserably. As the story goes, Belichick and Scarnecchia decided at the end of training camp to move Light back to the other side of the line.
"Let's just put him over there and see how it goes," Belichick recalled saying. "Went pretty good." He laughed, as if nodding to Light's multiple Pro Bowl seasons.
"That was probably one of the best undoing of a bad decision that I've done. He's been a tremendous player for us, been a tremendous resource for us. And he's put a levity that we probably need around here. Congratulations on a tremendous career. You and your family have meant a lot of this team."
Belichick concluded with his favorite gesture of sincere gratitude -- the one that can only be earned. "And thanks for putting up with me."
Light rose and locked his former coach in a bear hug. Then he began his goodbye.
"There are few things that have brought me more joy over my carer than to be a part of the rebuilding of the Patriots organization. Being as incredible as it was, especially as a rookie that couldn't make it to meetings on time. Pretty much I didn't do anything right, as Dante Scarnecchia said, I didn't know if the ball w0as pumped or stuffed. I've come a long way, an incredible distance. But to be a part of it, I'm truly honored and blessed.
"To Coach Belichick for all the demanding, just hard-headedness and genius that you bring to each and every day, and even though we've had some differences in the way we look at things. All the fun, I can't begin to tell you how great this has been and for taking that chance on me, and for sticking with me on some of the rough times, the sickness, injuries, many issues, I appreciate it. It meant a lot for me and my family to have this experience."
Most of Light's former teammates on the offensive line stood in sweats on the crowd's perimeter. They were given warm acknowledgment.
"One of the things that gets lost for how we do things on and off the field -- there's more of a team and family concept than you will truly realize, or what young guys understand. The togetherness, it's the concept that really put us on the map. The reason why they'll always have continued success with this leadership, and the type of people they bring through this door, the coaching staff, it's an honor and privilege to be around.
"To all teammates whom I've upset and aggravated and laughed alongside with, and definitely fought in the trenches with, you guys made it all worthwhile. I'm not sure if I've had a real conversations outside of joking with any of you, in a while, but from the bottom of my heart, I played the game to be alongside guys like you. You have held me accountable to things I've done or said, pushed me each and every step, believed in me.
"To be honest, for a guy who doesn't have a lot of self-confidence" Here, Light broke off. He came back braced by humor. "It looks like I do, because I'm so dapper. Ultimately, my confidence came through your strength; it's meant a lot to me."
Through it all, Light never broke down. He shed no tears before he turned and walked away from football and those who endeared the game to his life.
"The excellence we all shared as an organization, teammates, friends, everyone else. It's not just as an act, it's a habit, it's how we live our lives. what we try to do day-in and day-out. I hope this habit continues. Thank you."