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Jerod Mayo's Retirement: Requiem for a Family Man

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How will you remember Jerod Mayo?

The New England Patriots linebacker is retiring after eight seasons in the NFL. The 10th overall pick of the 2008 Draft will forever be one of the best selections of the Belichick era because of quickly he was able to have a positive impact on the franchise.

Defensive rookie of the year. Team captain in his second season. All Pro in his third. A game of what could have been? is dangerous when the player was the core of two Super Bowl teams and five straight AFC Championship games.

But if not for the MCL injury as a sophomore in 2009, if not for the knee injuries in 2011, if not for the torn pectoral in 2013, if not for the torn patellar tendon in 2014, if not for the shoulder injury in the 2015 playoffs...

How will you remember Jerod Mayo?

The Patriot Way has been whatever the players wanted it to do be. For Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, and Rodney Harrison it meant that everyone would be held accountable. The team came first. No player was allowed to be selfish. It was about the team success first and foremost.

When these players left, there was a vacuum of power in the locker room and the tumultuous 2009 season with unhappy players like Adalius Thomas poisoning the well. "I just can't get them to play the way they need to," head coach Bill Belichick said after the team was blown out by the Saints in prime time.

Mayo was 23 years old. He was in his second season in the league. He became the leader the team needed and he, along with Vince Wilfork, changed the definition of The Patriot Way.

"The Patriot Way, for me, I think starts at the top with the Kraft family," Mayo said in 2013. "That's just not only being a good football player, but being a good person."

There's no better person than Mayo and the culture of the locker room shifted in line with Mayo's new definition of The Patriot Way.

"Been a blessing how teammates turn to brothers," fellow captain and safety Devin McCourty said after Mayo announced his retirement.

"Over the years I had a chance to play with some great ball players but no better person than my brother mayo [sic]," Wilfork said. "We spent a lot of time on and off the field and we became family."

It was a necessary shift in identity for a Patriots team that had become so focused on winning that it forgot about the importance of kinship.

When we see wide receiver Julian Edelman tell head coach Bill Belichick that he'd "do anything" for the team, and tight end Rob Gronkowski get choked up when people were attacking Tom Brady in 2014, that's because these players genuinely love one another.

For me, Jerod Mayo was bigger to the Patriots than football. The Patriot Way doesn't mean putting the team above all; it means that everyone is greater than the team. The person, both on and off the field, comes first and the team will follow, not in a selfish way, but in a celebratory way. When I think of Mayo, I'll think of how family became the most important factor for the team- and how the team followed by becoming a family.

And there might not be a greater family celebration than the emergence of Mayo's daughter, Chya, into a media superstar. The Patriots media staff thought it would be great if Mayo's then-four-year-old daughter could interview players on the team in a lighthearted way that everyone could appreciate.

"[Chya] enjoys it; she's a character," Mayo said about the project last year. "Usually the interviews change into the players interviewing her, but she enjoys it and she has a good time. She knows a lot of the guys as they've known her since she was a baby. You know, it's like family. It's like she's interviewing family."

Linebacker Jamie Collins was invited over to eat the Mayo's food. Wilfork was known as "Uncle Vince". Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater, and Rob Ninkovich were all part of the Mayo's open door policy at their own house.

So when Mayo steps away from the Patriots, he's not leaving a job. He's not retiring from football. He's making a decision that will impact the entire family- his own, and his extended Patriots family.

There is no game of what could have been? with Mayo because his importance to the team transcends what took place on the field.

How will you remember Jerod Mayo?

How can you forget the cornerstone and Patriarch of the new Patriot Way?