As much as we hate to give Derek Jeter credit for anything around here, his Player’s Tribune brainchild has given us fascinating, hilarious, and occasionally heart-wrenching front-row seats to the lives of some of this era’s most legendary athletes. Even just in the Boston scene, PT’s hosted some of the best stories this side of “30 for 30” with features from James White, David Ortiz, Malcolm Butler, Isaiah Thomas, and we learned that Richard Sherman still doesn’t know how Julian Edelman got back up after getting hit-sticked by Kam Chancellor in the Super Bowl. Good times.
And for Nate Solder, apparently taking out a full page in the Boston Globe to thank the Patriots and the region he’s called home ever since being drafted 17th overall way back in 2011 wasn’t enough, cause Nate has more thoughts to get off his chest. Enter the Player’s Tribune and Solder’s gratitude, life lessons, and the story of fighting through battles that no man or woman, football player or otherwise, should ever have to endure.
Titled simply “Thank You, New England”, Nate’s tale begins with a 21-year-old converted tight end kid from the University of Colorado that set out to win first and ask questions later. And then, like it does to a lot of us, life happened. Four Super Bowls, two rings, seven straight AFC Championship Games and one contract extension later, Solder is the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history - a contract he believes has been entrusted to him to help his fellow humans.
You really owe it to yourself to read the whole piece - and it’s a long one - because it’s a fascinating and frequently poignant behind-the-scenes of the mostly-reserved franchise left tackle. Here’s just a few quick quotes from Nate on the last 8 years:
On the biggest lesson he learned in his Patriots career:
I’ve also been thinking about irony and how God works in mysterious ways. Because I was a kid who thought his entire purpose was to win, and then I went to New England, where winning is everything.
Only to learn that it’s not.
On his relationship with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick after Hudson’s cancer diagnosis:
In a cutthroat business where guys are always getting released and winning is everything and it’s all football all the time, I really appreciated the fact that he took the time to say, “Nate, what you’re going through with Hudson … that’s more important than football.” He told me that if I ever needed to dip out of a meeting because the stress got to be too much, nobody would ask any questions. Coach Belichick told me the same. He said that if I ever needed to miss practice or a meeting, it was totally fine.
“Whatever Hudson needs,” he said.
I don’t think I can even put into words how much I appreciated that — both what Bill said and how Josh handled everything. They treated me like a human being instead of a football player or a left tackle.
On winning the Super Bowl against Atlanta with his family:
But in that moment — being on the field with my teammates and my family after winning the craziest Super Bowl ever — the game and the fact that we had just won our second championship in three seasons wasn’t even at the top of my mind.
I remember looking at him playing on the field and kicking confetti around, and I was just thankful that he was O.K. His health was everything.
Winning the Super Bowl was icing on the cake.
And on the bond with some of his now-former Patriots teammates:
The bond we forged is difficult to put into words.
I think one of the guys in our group actually summed it up best that night when he addressed the room and said, “This group has been an answer to prayer.”
And in classic Nate Solder fashion, he signs off simply,