It’s just an hour before a holiday party at Gillette Stadium and the host, Patriots defensive tackle Lawrence Guy, backs his SUV into the loading dock. It’s loaded with toys, but a security guard, with all the charm of coach Bill Belichick at a news conference after a loss, gruffly orders him to move his car.
Guy does not tell him he is on the Patriots’ 2010 All-Decade team, and that he’s the team’s nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, which recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field. He also doesn’t mention that he and his wife, Andrea, have just bought thousands of dollars worth of toys at Target and they need to get them wrapped before families from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester arrive.
Guy’s grandfather, Addeliar D. Guy III, was the first Black trial judge in Nevada. He died when Guy was 7, but he left him some good advice.
“My grandfather said, ‘You can’t be told no,’ right? So when you get told you’re not supposed to do anything, that means you have to do it. His biggest slogan was, ‘I can and I will.’ [The slogan is displayed outside the entrance to the Guy Elementary School in North Las Vegas.] I can achieve anything and I will do it.”
A quick phone call and the Patriots cavalry comes to Guy’s aid.
On the field, the 12-year NFL veteran’s life is defined in three- or four-second bursts, but his lifelong goal is to make a difference.
“It’s all about good karma,” he says.
That starts at school, when Guy picks up his daughter, Adrianna, 5, and son, Lawrence Thomas Guy II, 3, and lets them listen to “Monster Truck” music all the way home. Then it’s roughhousing with them on the couch, as he tries to protect the baby, Isabella, 1.
Then it’s off to Target with a list several pages long of toys for the five families. Andrea, a kind-hearted woman who was born in Colombia, does most of the work.
“I’m not a big shopper,” says the 6-foot-4-inch, 315-pound Guy.
In an hour they have filled three carts, and bought so many gift cards they barely fit in Guy’s slightly twisted fingers.
“They say your hands take a toll, your shoulders take a toll, everything takes a toll, because you’re consistently getting hit. When you play in the trenches, it’s the hardest part of the game. That ain’t meant for everybody,” says Guy.
At the checkout line, they have enough toys to fill several conveyor belts.
Shane Lappen of Yarmouth is at the back of the line, wearing a Patriots sweatshirt. He doesn’t recognize Guy, but when informed of who is causing the wait, he’s delighted.
“Oh, he’s the run-stopper. I don’t mind waiting at all. He’s awesome. He’s been around a long time. I respect him,” Lappen says.
Guy has been with the Patriots since 2017, and has a 2018 Super Bowl ring that he never wears. He thinks it’s too gaudy.
“My job is to take on double teams. Don’t be moved. And then try to get a tackle,” Guy says.
He knows he’s not a household name.
“I look at it like, hey, the true fans will know, but if nobody knows that, that’s fine with me,” he says. “Like, accolades is just accolades.”
He’s hopeful the 6-6 Patriots will finish strong. He easily dodges questions about former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia’s offensive play-calling this year.
“The old saying on the Patriots is ignore the noise,” Guy says. “You can’t look at what happens on Sundays and blame one person. It’s a team thing. You can’t rely on the coach. [The] coaches are not out there playing, we’re out there playing.”
Guy denies that there’s bad juju in the locker room.
“If you’re not frustrated about losing a game, then that means you don’t really care about what happens on that field between those lines,” he says. “And I feel like if you see the emotions of people, I think showing them emotions, that means they care.”
Guy says Belichick is not the Grinch he appears to be at news conferences.
“He smiles all the time. He loves kids,” Guy says. “This is a big thing when you’re in training camp, [to] be able to bring your children into work after that day. And that’s the biggest thing that people don’t realize, is like, hey, it’s football. Football first, but he loves family.”
Guy says he’s enjoying this season. It a blessing to have the kids nearby on and off the field.
“This is a dream that not so many people get to live, but not a lot of families get to enjoy, as well,” he says.
Guy’s passion for making a difference comes from his father, a firefighter who helped extinguish a Christmas Eve fire that left a family homeless in Laughlin, Nev.
“He went to the local store. He got turkey, some sides, and he got all the gifts that he could and delivered it to the family,” Guy says. “The following year, he was like, ‘Hey, I really want to do this. You guys want to do this with me?’ It was me and my brothers, and I was like, ‘Yeah, that’d be awesome.’ ”
Guy and his family brought turkeys and all the trimmings to a Veterans Ambulatory Care Center also named after his grandfather. Then at Arizona State, Guy saved some money and bought turkeys for local families.
Now he brings Thanksgiving meals to 200 New England families.
The Lawrence Guy Family Foundation also hosts a backpack giveaway of school supplies and a “Shop with a Jock” event, where previously incarcerated youth go to a local sporting goods store for a $300 shopping spree.
The foundation also hosts a baby shower for underprivileged families, providing more than $80,000 worth of products and gifts to single mothers who are expecting or recently had a baby. The event was the result of a traumatic event.
When their daughter Isabella was stuck in the birth canal with low amniotic fluid, Andrea was rushed to a Miami hospital for an emergency C-section. She was holding her newborn daughter in the recovery room and, only separated by a thin curtain, she heard a woman crying. The woman was alone, her baby was rushed into newborn intensive care. She was scared. Everyone she called was abusive to her, according to Andrea.
“Instead of having, like, a joyous moment, it was just yelling and speaking so nasty to her. And that just made me so angry. And this is all I could think about,” she says.
The Guys decided they wanted to help. Anonymously, through a social worker, they asked what the new mother needed.
“Instead of giving me a list of things,” Andrea said, “she wrote me a letter saying that she was thankful for her guardian angel, that all she needed was diapers. We basically set the baby up for the first two years of life, and she has no idea who we are. And I dedicate this baby shower to her every year.”
The Guys have kept in touch with some of the families they have helped.
One year they gifted a mattress to a valet attendant so his kids wouldn’t have to sleep on the floor. But when he lost his job because of COVID and was about to be evicted, they wrote a check and offered to take the family to the Super Bowl and on a trip to Disneyland. When the father found out, he wept.
On this day, the Guys are hosting five families from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester. They wanted it to be intimate. Each family will have dinner with the defensive tackle and his family at Gillette Stadium, get to play on the field, and receive a slew of presents, a decorated Christmas tree, gift cards, and an autographed football.
When Guy shakes hands with a 15-year-old, he notices the teenager’s hands are almost as big as his. He quickly heads off for the Patriots equipment room in search of a game ball. He finds one with some mud on it and presents it to the wide-eyed boy.
“These small gestures mean more than anything to everybody. Little things matter,” Guy says.
When Guy announces that the Patriot knit hats under each tree are because they are all going to a home game in January, screams and dropped jaws are the reactions.
Giving, Guy says, is better than getting. The time spent playing catch on the field in the cavernous empty stadium, bathed in red light, was football’s equivalent of “Field of Dreams.”
“You see it on their faces, that’s why you do it. They’ll remember this for the rest of their life. The whole reason is to get the domino effect starting,” Guys says.
At the end of the night, Finn Nguyen, 10, of Dorchester, hugs Guy and thanks him for everything.
His father, Hoang Nguyen, tells Guy the gifts are too generous. Each family leaves with a pallet full of presents.
“It’s a lot,” Nguyen says. “We never expected all these gifts.”
Then Nguyen turns to his son.
“In 30 years, you need to do the same thing,” he says. “That’s the message you have to carry on. You have to make people happier. That’s all you have to do because by making people happy, you make yourself happy. Remember that, OK?”
Stan Grossfeld can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.