I was a second-year player for the Patriots in 2001. As one of the younger guys on the roster, you’re definitely not established in the NFL yet… every day is about trying to make a case that you belong in the NFL. Of course, how you perform in the games is, by far, the most important part. But how you grow in their training program is a big part of behind-the-scenes development for young players.
Early on in the NFL, I had a very particular training obsession with my vertical jump scores. For years, I couldn’t clear that big psychological ridge of 30 inches. Throughout the offseason program and season, we’d work on explosion exercises and the like, but I continued to test at either 28 or 29 inches-never reaching that basic numerical summit. It’s a lot like being 5-11 and not 6-feet tall…so close, but yet so far. I tested well in just about everything else, but for me, this one metric was always staring me in the face. Our strength coaches knew it bugged and motivated me, and would continue to give me a hard time about it. With all the many good things going on in your life getting to be in the NFL, it doesn’t make much sense that I cared about this relatively unimportant test score so much, but that’s part of being a competitive athlete. It’s easy to get consumed by something you can quite reach.
Fast forward to Super Bowl 36, and the morning after Adam Vinatieri made his game-winning kick. There was a big photo of me the next day in the Times-Picayune (New Orleans) newspaper leaping in celebration as we won. As I boarded the team bus the morning after to head back to Foxborough, Coach Belichick was there at the front of the bus with a stack of these newspapers on the seat in front of him. He stopped me and joked, “Chatham, have you seen this yet? You got pretty high.” So I responded, “I sure did coach, and I think that means we have to retest my vertical when we land in Foxboro…that’s GOT to be 30 inches!” In classic Belichick style, he just grinned at me out of the corner of his mouth and said, “Yeah, maybe we should.”
There are so many countless great memories from my time as a Patriot, but this one always makes me chuckle. Even in the aftermath of the greatest victory imaginable, those little validations you chase as an athlete never go away.
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