PLYMOUTH — He’s still just an eager elementary schooler, he says. Still a reckless boy, flying around, creating memories and hoping for more to come.
Matthew Slater, the cocaptain of the Patriots, said that his love for football and humble approach to the sport are unchanged since those younger days on the West Coast.
“Still just trying to make the team this year. Still see myself as a guy that does a lot of grunt work. Nothing’s owed to me,” Slater said before teeing off Monday at the sixth annual Joe Andruzzi & Friends golf tournament, which raises money for cancer patients and their families. “I still feel like I have to earn it. I enjoy kind of being that grunt guy who goes in and earns everything that he can. [The] mentality’s the same seven years later.”
“I still feel like the kid who’s out there at recess, playing football and having a blast,” he added later.
The tournament, hosted by former Patriots guard and cancer survivor Joe Andruzzi, brought together current and former Patriots to play a scramble at the Pinehills Golf Club. Expected to participate were Logan Mankins, Rob Ninkovich, Dan Connolly, Duron Harmon, Nate Solder, and Dan Koppen.
Andruzzi established the Joe Andruzzi Foundation with his wife, Jen, in 2008, after he was diagnosed in 2007 with non-Hodgkin’s Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Less than a year later, he was cancer-free.
“You walk around and see smiles on [the players’] faces,” Andruzzi said, palming an iced coffee and speaking about the tournament and the foundation, which helps cancer patients make mortgage, rent, and utility payments. “To play a round of golf in this gorgeous weather on a course like this is a great day for everybody.”
Even if their golfing proficiency is significantly worse than their football.
“It’s a lot of fun just to get out here on a nice day like this and swing the clubs,” Slater said. “But I’m definitely not a very good golfer. So I’ll try and do my best to have fun today.”
“I’ll get out there and whack it around a little bit, but I have no skill at this game at all,” Solder said. “It’s just here about supporting the Andruzzi Foundation.”
Andruzzi was equally self-deprecating about his golf game.
“I rate my game on how many balls I lose,” he said, laughing. “If I’m 2 over, I found two. If I’m 2 under, I lost two. But I usually lose more than that.”
After the tournament, Slater and Solder said they’ll rest and try to maintain their fitness until training camp opens July 24.
“You work all year to get to this point,” Slater said. “You put a lot of work in, and there’s still a lot of work to be put in. We’re just excited about the 2014 season and what’s in store for us.”
Spoken like a true Patriot, one who still feels like the young boy on the playground.
Rob Harms can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @harms__way.