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Patriots Unfiltered Tue Jun 02 | 11:55 AM - 02:00 PM

Light-hearted Light locked and loaded

There's skeet shooting, trap shooting … and then there's sporting clays.

Each involves firing shotguns at airborne targets, but there are important distinctions between the three outdoorsman activities.

"It's very technical," Patriots left tackle Matt Light began to explain.

"Sporting clays is a really unique game. It is, honestly, golfing with a shotgun. So, if you enjoy golf, and you want to see things explode in the air, and you like to blow things up, you would love sporting clays."

Well, thanks Matt. That clears things up.

The always jocular jock is never afraid to come out of his shell (particularly when cameras and microphones are nigh). Loading shells into his 20 gauge shotgun comes just as easily to Light, who hails from Greenville, Ohio, the same hometown as Annie Oakley (of "Annie Get Your Gun" fame).

So, as you might expect, Light was trigger-happy on this warm Friday morning as he kicked off his third annual Celebrity Shoot-Out under blue skies, bright sunshine, and cottony white clouds. The dense, pond-dotted woods of northwest Rhode Island provided the ideal idyllic setting for this year's competition.

Light hosts this yearly event to raise money for his charitable organization, The Light Foundation. Using the great outdoors as a theme, Light says the main objective of his foundation is to be "a positive role model" for underprivileged kids.

"For me, it's … taking them out of certain environments, and letting them experience some things that they might not ever have had a chance to do."

Among other things, Light's foundation has built a baseball field, purchased uniforms for youth athletic teams, and taken groups of children to Patriots games.

"To see the smiles on their faces," Light paused momentarily, "we had kids that came in from the Cheyenne reservation for the last preseason game, and it was phenomenal. They had a hard time leaving, didn't want to say goodbye. You knew it made a real difference, and we'll follow up with them. Those are the kinds of things we enjoy doing."

But it's not just about sports.

The Light Foundation has purchased Easter baskets for needy children, donated $25,000 to Children's Hospital Boston to support research for diagnosing heart conditions, and created scholarships for students in Ohio and Massachusetts.

At $3,000 per team, contestants in this year's event – including several of Light's Patriot teammates – were matched up in groups to try their skills at shooting sporting clays on the grounds of Addieville East Farm.

"Last year, I got my butt kicked by Logan Mankins. And I'm a little upset about that," Light joked about being one-upped by his fellow O-lineman. "So, I was out here practicing a couple of days ago.

"Yeah, I'm gonna win this one … It has nothing to do with shooting ability, really. It's mental, and the ability to run the scorecard inside," he laughed.

But there's a more important title Light is gunning for: another Vince Lombardi trophy. As the Patriots prepare to start the 2007 regular season next weekend against the New York Jets, Light took a moment to reflect on this summer's training camp.

"It was a long camp, but it was a good camp," he observed. "I think we got a lot accomplished. We picked [the tempo] up there in the third preseason game. The biggest thing is we stayed healthy, and I think we're in good position to start this season out. Got a big test, though, on the road against the Jets. It's not gonna be easy."

Some of the many new weapons acquired by the Patriots this offseason have not been available that much so far, including wide receiver Randy Moss and tight end Kyle Brady. But Light doesn't feel that's different than any other season he's experienced here in New England.

"Every year, you're always going to have a few new pieces to the puzzle. And we've obviously got a lot of guys that, the more and more we communicate and play in the real deal, we'll get better and better."

The key, according to Light, is keeping everyone on the field once they return to action.

"If we can keep everybody healthy, that's going to go a long way in helping us have some success."

On the field and off, Light is right on target.

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