Jerod Mayo was taking a break from his work with Pepsi’s NFL Anthem program Tuesday morning, wondering why he didn’t have any coffee, when I hit him with the tough question:
“Who plays you in a movie?”
The pause was telling – yet surely he had been asked this question before?
“Denzel.” he replied with a laugh, which verbally confirmed what the pause had already told me about Jerod Mayo – more with it’s breadth than it’s blank silence.
Some would take his answer as a sign of some sort of narcissism, an egomaniac whose daydreams have the handsome leading man of many films as his alter ego – that is, until he offers, “At first I thought it would be (Wesley) Snipes, but it’s Denzel Washington for sure.”
The manner in which he answered made me curiously certain that he viewed himself as a quiet, studious person more than a man of action and intrigue, though a man of action is exactly what he is every time he takes the field for the New England Patriots.
The mellow, contemplative family man is what he is the other 165 hours of the week.
He came off as grounded – a self-aware man, just as a member of the New England Patriots is expected to be – and as the interview progressed his answers were thoughtful and genuine, a pleasant departure from the Belichick-ian scripted responses that we would normally hear…and when I mentioned that fellow linebacker Brandon Spikes was probably better suited to have Snipes play him in a movie, he heartily laughed in agreement…
In his fifth season out of the University of Tennessee, Mayo is the unquestioned leader of a defense that always seems to start the year as a work in progress, yet meticulously works it’s way into a cohesive championship-calibre unit – and where attitude reflects leadership, it’s no wonder that the Patriots defense is sound and disciplined and almost always comes up with the game-changing play.
As we spoke of the Pepsi NFL Anthem program and how he had signed on to represent the Patriots along side Boston rock legends Aerosmith – themselves huge Patriots’ fans - to augment the junction between sports and music, I heard the dutiful side of the 2010 Pro Bowl selection, the side that embraces opportunity as a means to better his family’s life.
He cordially rattled off the company line – scripted – but with a fervor that told of his responsibility, and when the questions turned to football, he was just as enthusiastic – if not more so – yet his answers came easier, as if he leaves the outside world behind, entering a sanctuary where he can be himself.
We spoke of the Miami game, of the perfectly timed “Hug” blitz, of Dolphins’ offensive guard Richie Incognito going after his legs and the intensity of the defensive huddle just before a big play in the game, a noticeable potency to his voice – but those are subjects for another day when we are focused on the upcoming game against the Houston Texans.
For today, we are visiting with Jerod Mayo whose life seems so unspectacular and so ordinary that no Hollywood producer would ever consider making a movie of it…
…but if they did, perhaps he would be portrayed like Denzel’s character , Coach Herman Boone, in the film Remember the Titans – a man with passion for family and a passion for football, and with the disposition to happily tolerate curious writers who ask him odd questions.
Because he is self-aware, responsible and a role model…otherwise Pepsi wouldn’t have him as a spokesman for their NFL Anthem program, nor would the squeaky clean Kraft family have him as a captain of their football team.
“Yeah, this is my sanctuary right here” Denzel’s character says as he stands on the football field the night before his first game “..this, this is always right. Struggling, survival, victory, and defeat. Its just a game..but I love it.”
Yeah, perhaps Denzel Washington was the right answer.
You can hear and download all of the Pepsi NFL Anthems here .