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Low-level Patriots employees suddenly at center of storm

John Jastremski.
John Jastremski.New England Patriots

One moment, they were just two guys who loved the Pats, rank-and-file Gillette Stadium employees who started out as teenage ball boys and whose collection of memorabilia and brushes with pigskin greatness over the ensuing decades made them the envy of friends.

The next, their names were national news, their text messages to each other splashed across the Internet, and Jim McNally and John Jastremski suddenly were stuck in the center of the scandal known as Deflategate.

The investigative report released by the National Football League on Wednesday brims with more than 1,000 references to the previously little-known McNally and Jastremski, and concludes that the two likely “participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee.” The investigators hired by the league also found that the “totality of the evidence” suggests quarterback Tom Brady was at least tacitly aware of what was going on.

Along the way, the 243-page tome known as the Wells Report reveals glimpses into the lives of the two men, and exposes occasionally cringe-worthy text exchanges that they never imagined would see the light of day.

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In one, McNally called himself the “deflator” and sniffed about not being included when Brady gave out Uggs to select staffers at the holidays. Jastremski boasted of taking home the ball that Brady used when he surpassed 50,000 career passing yards while unsuspecting fans viewed a replacement in the team’s hall of fame.

The report also shows that the NFL, a multibillion-dollar enterprise, hired a top engineering and scientific consulting firm to determine whether it was possible for a person to deflate the air from a bag of a dozen footballs in 102 seconds. That was the amount of time McNally, a 48-year-old part-time attendant, spent alone with the game balls, unauthorized, in a bathroom in the bowels of Gillette just before kickoff of the AFC Championship game in January. It was indeed possible, the consultants found.

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Though the messages the men traded showed less-than-textbook employee conduct, a team official said Thursday that he was not aware of any changes in employment for either man. Neither Jastremski nor McNally could be reached for comment.

Each man started as a ball boy for the New England Patriots while in high school, a teenage dream. Jastremski, who is 36 and owns a condo in Franklin, advanced to full-time work in 2001 after he graduated from Rhode Island’s Bryant College, where he studied computers. Three years ago he became New England’s “game ball maker,” meaning he works closely with Brady while meticulously conditioning the 780 official Wilson Sporting Goods balls that the Patriots receive each season.

McNally lives in Amherst, N.H., and works by day as a beer distributor, according to the Telegraph of Nashua. On game days, he logs long hours in his car for the privilege of tending the officials’ locker room before kickoff and helping keep the team’s bench clean during play.

The report says that McNally had been handling the officials’ locker room role since 2007, and had a good rapport with the referees, linesmen, and umpires, some of whom praised him to investigators as “professional, attentive, and cordial.”

The friends exchanged hundreds of texts during the fall and winter as New England marched toward the Super Bowl, a trove that investigators recovered after they cloned the data from team- issued cellphones used by several Patriots employees, including Jastremski. The resulting findings unveiled what the two men might have considered their ephemeral, jokey, and sometimes off-color banter.

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Those messages, along with interviews conducted by the investigators, suggest that McNally used his role to deflate the balls during the short window between their pregame inspection by the officials — to ensure they were inflated between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch, the NFL’s allowable range — and kickoff. McNally appeared to feel unappreciated for his efforts. He requested sneakers, autographs, and other booty to keep deflating the footballs, according to the texts.

“Better be surrounded by cash and newkicks . . . or its a rugby sunday,” McNally texted midseason, meaning a ball so heavily inflated — and therefore harder for Brady to grip and throw — that it resembles a rugby ball.

“Maybe u will have some nice size 11s in ur locker,” Jastremski wrote, showing a soft spot for his friend. While Jastremski had received holiday gifts from Brady every year, including $1,500 this Christmas, McNally, as a game-day-only guy, had not received even the Ugg footwear that Brady endorses and apparently bestows on many team employees. “[I] figured u should get something since he gives u nothing.”

In Franklin, just down the road from the Patriots’ Foxborough headquarters, a neighbor at the complex where Jastremski purchased a condo in 2008 described him on Thursday as a “nice guy, very polite, hard-working.” Neighbor Brian Collins said that Jastremski mentioned before the Super Bowl that the NFL wanted to interview him over the deflated-footballs controversy but had not yet followed through, and said that he had not run into Jastremski since.

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John Jastremski’s neighbor, Brian Collins, said Jastremski mentioned before the Super Bowl that the NFL wanted to interview him over the deflated-footballs controversy.
John Jastremski’s neighbor, Brian Collins, said Jastremski mentioned before the Super Bowl that the NFL wanted to interview him over the deflated-footballs controversy. Rose Lincoln for The Boston Globe

Jastremski grew up in Hopedale, a high school basketball player in a small town about halfway between Foxborough and Worcester. No one answered the door at his childhood home, on a tree-lined street near a pond, but at a nearby Cumberland Farms, residents were split about the Deflategate report and the role of their former neighbor.

“Anyone who messes with those balls is culpable and should accept the consequences,” said one, a 47-year-old woman who asked that her name not be used, fearing backlash from fans.

In Amherst, no one answered the door at McNally’s green-shingled ranch, where a tarp covered an above-ground pool and a basketball hoop stood in the driveway.

One neighbor said she heard her husband criticizing the report but had no idea that McNally was a central figure. “That house there?” she asked, curious. “All I know is that my husband said everyone should just get on with their lives.”

The league’s report shows that some of Jastremski’s text messages had been deleted, but forensic specialists were able to recover many, including one talking about ball deflation as far back as last May.

The report also paints a detailed picture of how the men worked together on game days.

After conditioning the balls, Jastremski would lay them out on a set of trunks for Brady to peruse. After the quarterback picked his favorites, Jastremski would set aside 12 as game balls in one bag, and put two to 12 in another bag as backups.

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McNally would then bring the balls, as well as an air pump and pressure gauge, for officials to perform their pregame inspections and mark the balls for use.

Once the balls had been inspected, he was not allowed to carry them without accompaniment or permission from officials. Nonetheless, security footage from January’s game would ultimately show McNally taking the balls down the hall to a private bathroom, where he spent 102 seconds alone, time that he could not explain convincingly in a battery of interviews.

In the second quarter, the Colts would intercept one of those Brady-thrown balls, suspect it of being underinflated, and set in motion the investigation.

Over the next few days, Brady and Jastremski suddenly started texting and trading phone calls extensively, something they hadn’t done before, according to the report.

“You good Jonny boy?” the star quarterback wrote to the former ball boy at one point.

“Still nervous,” Jastremski replied. “So far so good though.”


Peter Schworm and Sean P. Murphy of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Eric Moskowitz can be reached at emoskowitz@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeMoskowitz.