Jerod Mayo came to the NFL in 2008 and the world was a different then, especially from a technological perspective: smartphones had not yet taken over the world, Instagram and TikTok had yet to be invented, all while platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter were still wearing the proverbial diapers and had far from the social impact they have nowadays, 11 years removed from when Mayo first joined the New England Patriots.
The player himself, has also changed quite a bit since then. A first-round draft pick, he quickly became one of the best inside linebackers in football and along the way was named the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year and voted twice to the Pro Bowl. Mayo also earned a Super Bowl ring to cap his 2014 campaign — one he ended on injured reserve — before calling it a career after eight seasons and announcing his retirement in early 2016.
Three years later, however, he was back with the organization. The now-33-year-old joined the Patriots’ coaching staff in late March as the team’s inside linebackers coach, who is also playing a significant role in preparing the unit as a whole alongside head coach Bill Belichick and secondary coach Steve Belichick. While New England’s organizational principles have not changed over the years, social media usage has — even for Mayo.
The first-year coach regularly takes to social platforms to share motivational posts in order to motivate himself and his players: “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, and I’m hopeful, honestly, that my linebackers see those posts. It definitely helps motivate me,” Mayo said during a media conference call earlier this week.
“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,” continued Mayo, who also went on to explain how social media usage has changed the locker room culture as a whole compared to when he first entered pro football.
“I think it’s by a player-by-player basis,” said Mayo. “I remember when I first came into the league, you think about the room. 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. 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.”
Over the years, however, online presence has grown not just for the team itself but also for individual players. While the results are harmless most of the time, there are notable exceptions: from short-time Patriot Antonio Brown posting profanity-laden rants on Twitter and live-streaming a coach’s speech when he was still in Pittsburgh, to Jermaine Whitehead getting cut from the Cleveland Browns after sending threatening messages on social media.
For the Patriots, social media also has been a topic of discussion with head coach Bill Belichick pointing out in 2017 that the team had implemented rules targeting the usage: “We have rules that prohibit our players from posting things on InstantFace and all that. I think it’s important for us as a team to know each other — know our teammates, know our coaches, to interact with them — more than it is to be liked by whoever on Chatroom.”
“The younger generation, they’re checking their social media and things like that,” Mayo said on Tuesday when speaking about social media and its potential impact on the team. “But, I think the players around here do a good job, when they’re in the building, really focusing on football. But, if I had to say something that’s changed, I’m sure when they’re on their phones, they’re checking that stuff.”
“As far as how it kind of affects them — 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,” continued the linebacker-turned-coach.