Patriots running back Sony Michel traded in footballs for bags of groceries Wednesday morning at the Yawkey Boys and Girls Club in Roxbury.
As part of Stop & Shop and 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Five Yards for Families” campaign, Michel helped load food items that will soon be distributed to local families in need. According to the Greater Boston Food Bank, one in eight people in Eastern Massachusetts is struggling with food insecurity amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m a big believer in serving the community, giving back,” Michel said. “I’m very fortunate to be in a position where I don’t really have to worry about where my next meal is coming from.”
There was plenty of food to be packed Wednesday, with each family set to receive apples, oranges, bananas, pasta, tomato sauce, beans, brown rice, pretzels, popcorn, and more.
For every 5 rushing yards the Patriots recorded this season, Stop & Shop pledged to donate five bags of groceries. The team ultimately tallied 2,346 yards, which means more than 35,000 pounds of food will be delivered to 16 local nonprofits, including 10 Boys and Girls Clubs across Boston.
Michel, who missed seven games on injured reserve, accounted for a fifth of the team’s total, running for 449 yards and a touchdown. Second-year back Damien Harris led the team with 691 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
“We did a good job running the ball so we could donate this amount of food,” Michel said. “My teammates, they’re great people, great human beings, great football players, and they all work hard to do their best. I’m just thankful to be able to play with those guys.”
It’s rare for Patriots players to have time to participate in such events in January. In the past, the team has typically spent this month preparing for playoff matchups. But this year, the 7-9 Patriots are on the outside looking in, missing the postseason for the first time since 2008.
Michel, who played an important role in New England’s Super Bowl LIII run two years ago, acknowledged there is some weirdness in not being a part of the postseason.
“It is a little weird,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s how life goes. Sometimes, you have to adapt and adjust and learn from it to move forward.”
Michel said he’s “feeling good” physically, after sustaining a quad injury and testing positive for coronavirus this season. He still finished the season strong, averaging more than 6 yards per carry and rushing for 219 yards in the final three games.
“I’m trying to bring some of that momentum into next season,” he said.
According to Michel, he does not have a singular focus this offseason, referring to the catch-all that he plans on working to become “a better football player.”
The receiving game is one element of Michel’s game that could see some growth. Running backs coach Ivan Fears has emphasized the importance of being able to contribute in multiple areas, and the Patriots have always valued versatility.
Michel, who scored the first receiving touchdown of his career in Week 17, registered seven catches on nine targets this season. With veteran pass-catching backs Rex Burkhead and James White set to hit unrestricted free agency, the Patriots may need Michel to develop as a reliable option in the short passing game.
After he started the past two training camps on the physically unable to perform list, staying healthy will likely be at the top of Michel’s priority list, too.
In the meantime, Michel will be tuning into the conference championships and cheering on his former teammates, including Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.
“I’m rooting for some of the guys I’ve played with,” he said. “I’m rooting for Tom. Tom was one of the guys that I was fortunate enough to play with, one of the greatest quarterbacks to play this game, so there’s so much respect from me to him.”
Nicole Yang can be reached at email@example.com.