The Massachusetts high school Super Bowls will be taking place at Gillette Stadium this weekend, and judging by the enthusiasm expressed by several of the Patriots coaches, the experience will be a memorable one.
The high schools will invade the Patriots home in Foxborough on Dec. 6-7 with eight games over the weekend. New England will host Kansas City on Dec. 8, which gives the team the opportunity to check out the sport they loved being played on a different level.
"You're talking about high school football … that's football in its purest form," inside linebacker coach Jerod Mayo said. "Those guys are just out there having a good time. You have a mix of guys, freshman all the way to seniors playing their last games. It's always good to see."
Defensive line coach Bret Bielema is looking forward to catching a glimpse, and he already got a jumpstart last week when he made it a point to catch some of the contest between St. Paul and Dexter Southfield at Gillette Stadium.
"I went out last Friday and got my little high school fix," Bielema said. "I used to watch that every week of the year. I just saw something come across my social media timeline about a high school player in Minnesota who played his last game, and the emotion that came out as a result. One of the things I loved about college coaching was to go out and watch the passion of not just the kids but the parents around them."
The memories created by playing in the Patriots home will last a lifetime, especially for those who don't plan to continue their careers at the collegiate level.
"I grew up in northeast Ohio, Canton, Ohio," tight ends coach Nick Caley said. "That sparked my fire for football. High school football's pretty important there. It wouldn't be uncommon to have 10, 15, 20 thousand fans at some of the high school games. I was lucky when my father took me to games on Friday nights when I was 5 or 6 years old."
"I always look at high school as great memories those guys are going to have," added outside linebackers coach DeMarcus Covington. "Some guys will go on to play in college and some won't. You'll always have that memory of playing high school football with your brothers out there. Very few people get to play this game so you have to take advantage of those opportunities. It's a blessing to be out there."
It's clear what high school football meant to the development of the Patriots coaches. While they've made a living playing and working in the game, nothing can take away from the experiences they enjoyed before it was a business.
"A lot of the values and things it takes to become a good football player transfer over to the business world or whatever you want to do," Mayo said. "Hard work, dedication. You can outwork 99 percent of the people. Hopefully those guys take those principles and apply them to the real world."
"A good friend of mine's son, who I've known since he was knee high, won a state championship last night in Iowa," Bielema said. "I texted him and told him, 'I've been involved in a lot of big games – Rose Bowls, Super Bowl, but that last high school game is still the one I remember the clearest.
"I think it's neat to have it right there."