Many thought Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo would get into coaching in retirement. Throughout his career he was lauded as a film junkie and one of the team's extensions of the coaching staff on the field. A future coach was in the making, it seemed.
While Mayo plans to be around the game in some capacity in retirement, he's looking forward to a future in business. He told the team's radio show PFW in Progress that he planned to work with Optum, a health services and innovation company, now that his playing career is over.
"I've always had an interest in business," Mayo said. "I've been doing a lot of things the last two or three years. I've been on [injured reserve] so I had a lot of time. I had a lot of time to start making this pivot."
Mayo didn't specify what his role would be with the company, but as one of the more gregarious people to enter the Patriots locker room over the last few years, he hopes his skill set as a team-builder will serve him well in the next phase of his professional life.
"Half of it is all about relationships in business," Mayo said. "A lot is about relationships. They told me pretty much I can dibble and dabble and learn what I want to learn. I want to learn about mergers and acquisitions and things like that."
Mayo still plans to be around the game in some capacity in the future, but he felt like at 30 years old, this offseason was the right time to decide to step away.
"My family and I, we just sat down and we talked about it," Mayo said. "Honestly, at the end of the day, I feel too good to come back and play, as weird as it sounds. That sounds weird, but I feel great. This has been a great platform for me. I will always be a Patriot.
"I could never play for someone else, I told Bill [Belichick] that. If teams were calling, I would never go. I could never see myself playing for another team. I'm big into loyalty . . . The Kraft family and coach Belichick, they've always been loyal to me and I owe it to them. It hasn't been about money . . . It honestly was never really about the money after you finish that first contract. I just love the game of football. It's all about relationships, I've formed some great relationships, from the people in the kitchen to the janitors and the coaches. I've always tried to treat everyone the same, leave a legacy of giving back."
Mayo formed relationships with his teammates that he hopes will have lasting effects as well. Each of his last three seasons in the league ended with him on season-ending injured reserve, but after each injury he hung around the team in order to impart whatever wisdom he could.
"It was difficult [being injured]," Mayo explained, "but at the same time I feel like I was able to influence some of the younger guys just like how I was influenced when I first got into the league by Tedy Bruschi and guys like that. I took kind of that mentor role as I was rehabbing.
"It was difficult, but at the same time I felt like it was a blessing in disguise, being able to learn more about the game of football, strategies and tactics. I spent a lot of time with coach Belichick and his son, and Matty [Patricia], just learning the ins and outs. I enjoy it. I still enjoy the game. I'll still be around the game somehow some way."
That includes watching the Patriots on Sundays from his couch.
"Definitely," Mayo said. "Definitely . . . if I'm not in the Optum Lounge."
While doing some rehab work on Thursday, Mayo was surprised by team owner Robert Kraft with a retirement gift: his last game jersey presented in a frame.
"It was a surprise," Mayo said. "I literally, I was in there doing a little rehab, then I went upstairs. I have a white t-shirt on. I'm already sweating a little bit, and all of a sudden all of the cameras come over. It was a legit surprise. But it was a great one. I'm very appreciative to the organization, Mr. Kraft, coach Belichick, everyone, so it was a great time."
During the Annual NFL Meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. this week, Belichick praised Mayo for everything he did in New England during his eight-year career, calling him "special" and a "pillar" of the franchise. He also said that Mayo taught him more than he taught Mayo.
"I find that hard to believe," Mayo said. "It's a great compliment. Maybe about things in the locker room and things like that, but Bill's a great guy. A lot of people don't see him the same way I see him, but he's a great teacher, a great mentor, not only about football, but also just becoming a man and being a pillar in the community.
"A lot of people don't talk about that with Bill, but he does give back a lot. Anytime I had a charity or something like that, he would sign something and he would ask me before I would ask him, 'You need something?' I try to use those principles now with my kids and my family, and hopefully I can use some of those principles that he used to lead these great football teams in the next aspect of my life."