Former New England Patriot Matt Light has taken some of the principles of that organization to his new venture, as a partner in KEEL vodka, a Newport, R.I.-based company. “I’m almost looking at it from a team perspective,” says the offensive tackle, 35, who spent his entire 10-year career with the Pats, winning three Super Bowl rings, before retiring last year. “The things we were able to do in New England and the attention to detail and the work that we put into it, that’s what made it successful. I’m trying to translate that mentality to the real world, as I like to call it.” The light vodka is 24 percent alcohol (as opposed to 40 percent in others). KEEL debuted last spring.
Q. What can your name on this product do to help gain recognition?
A. Obviously, the relationships that I’ve built over the last 12, 13 years in this area are helpful, whether it’s friends or being friendly with a lot of the guys that own a lot of the great restaurants in town. Boston is such a tightknit group of individuals, the whole New England region really. A lot more people reside in this part of the country than where I grew up [Greenville, Ohio], but everybody kind of knows everybody. It’s almost a “Cheers” mentality, you know? [My name] has helped us get our foot in the door. For me, that’s all great, but we know that taking this brand nationally is going to take a lot more than name recognition or anything to that degree. We’re going to have to be able to stand on the fact that we have a great product.
Q. Have you always been a vodka man?
A. I actually began the switch to vodka probably about the time that I retired, looking for a healthier option. When I was playing and burning a lot of calories, I didn’t really care how much I put into my system. I knew I’d burn it off at some point. But I think like a lot of other people my age, you get to your mid-30s, you think, “Man, things don’t come off as quickly as they go on anymore,” and when you’re not living that lifestyle where your job is to work out and stay fit, I started looking for a different alternative. And I think a lot of people are like that, taking more of an interest in what they consume. That was kind of where I was at, in that transition phase. I used to drink beer for the most part, light beer or micro brews. Then, I started looking at the vodka model.
Q. When you were playing every season, what did your workout consist of?
A. It’s intense when you’re working out, training as a professional athlete. There’s probably not anything that emulates the workouts on that level like going to your local gym or CrossFit or whatever else. So you go from one dynamic to another, it’s a heck of an adjustment for anyone. That lifestyle just requires a ton of workouts whether it’s conditioning or weight training or practice. You don’t wake up and do that in retirement.
Q. What do you do now?
A. I would call it situational workouts. I don’t know how else to put it. I try to work out by doing things I enjoy. I don’t go to gyms, I’ve never been a gym guy, I don’t like pushing things literally. Most of your traditional weight training equipment is driving a bar straight up and straight down to your chest. If I had to associate with something, it’d be the kettle bell CrossFit method. Picking things up, putting them down, as the commercial says, whether it’s a bale of hay back home or cutting trees out in the woods or cutting logs and stacking firewood. All those kinds of things are everyday activities.
Q. It’s been a weird season for the Patriots. The team has a great record but has also had some major ups and downs. Are you tempted to ask your former coach, Bill Belichick, out for a drink after a few of these nail-biter games?
A. He just might save that moment until some time in late February. He has a tendency to do that. I always heard from Bill throughout the season that your personal life has to be on hold for a while. There’s a drawer in your office, he used to tell us, and all the things that come at you outside of the stadium, you put that in the drawer and when the season’s over, you open that drawer and you deal with it. Maybe I’ll have to put a bottle of vodka in that drawer for him.
Interview was condensed and edited. Glenn Yoder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org