Captain John writes: Today, Navy won its 9th game, in its 9 and 2 record to date, by beating SMU 75 to 31. Navy will play for the AAC Championship on December 3rd, will play Army on December 10th, and has accepted an invitation to the Armed Forces Bowl on December 23rd. Go Navy!!
By Captain Matthew T. Provencher ’93, MD MC USNR
Although four hundred miles apart, the United States Naval Academy (USNA) and Gillette Stadium, home of the National Football League’s New England Patriots football franchise, are fundamentally close as a result of the firm bridge built between each location. This bridge paved by many former and current members of the New England Patriots football franchise continues to stand strong until this day. The rich connection between the New England Patriots and USNA began to initially form in 1956. That year, Stephen Belichick took on the roles of assistant coach and scout for the Navy football team. Steven excelled in these positions and was a fundamental leader for Navy Football for 34 years (1956-1989). While at the Naval Academy, Steve wrote the scouting bible “Football Scouting Methods,” which many in football coaching consider the standard to follow in order to identify and cultivate football talent. During Steve’s tenure as a Navy Football coach, his son Bill learned the fundamentals of football. Bill Belichick was often seen on the sidelines with his Dad during practice and games since the age of ten. Bill’s coaching career truly began in Annapolis, side-by-side with his Dad, decades before he set foot in Fox borough, MA.
Now as Head Coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick is the 5th-ranked winningest head coach in NFL history (225-113, .666 winning percentage) and has maintained himself atop the National Football League for over fifteen years. In his time as head coach, he has won four Super Bowls, six AFC Championships and built a legacy of excellence and triumph. Currently, the New England Patriots are #1 in the AFC this season following their loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champions Denver Broncos in the 2015 AFC Championship Game. In the year prior, the Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX over the Seattle Seahawks in a dramatic finish, 28-24. Earlier this year, Super Bowl XLIX was ranked #2 Super Bowl of all time by ESPN.
I was on the sidelines as the Medical Director and Head Team Physician for the New England Patriots for Super Bowl XLIX. In my capacity, I served as the Chief of Sports Medicine and Surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Head Team Physician for the Patriots, where I was in charge of approximately 75 medical professionals that assist in the day-to-day care of the team. These medical professional ranged in training from experts in sports science, nutrition, physical therapy and concussion care to surgical consultants. Under my leadership, as well as The Patriots Head Athletic Trainer Jim Whalen, these medical professionals provided comprehensive care to the team during the past two NFL seasons. My father, Michael Provencher ’69 played for Navy football for two seasons under the tutelage of Steve Belichick. In addition, a Navy Reserve officer and orthopedic surgeon, CDR Mark Price, MD, PhD, MC USNR is the current Head Team Physician for the New England Patriots, following my recent departure to the Steadman Clinic in Vail, CO.
In my capacity as Head Team Physician, I would spend approximately three afternoons a week with the team at their training facility.
at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA, and attended all games, home and away, and all events with the team. In addition, I attended the NFL Training Combine each February, the Combine Recheck in April, the NFL Draft in May, Off Season Training Program and a majority of summer Training Camp. Furthermore, I coordinated the care for all players, coaches and extended family of the team. At every Patriots game, my core team oversaw the care provided by 27 medical professionals who were stationed on the field to assist in the care of game-day injuries.
When the New England Patriots were facing the San Diego Chargers in December 2014, I setup a visit to the Naval Medical Center San Diego, where I had trained in orthopedic surgery and also spent many years as staff surgeon (1998-2013) treating our military wounded warrior athletes. The entire Patriots team (63 players, 15 coaches and 15 administrative personnel) volunteered to spend time at Naval Medical Center San Diego, where players had the opportunity to meet up-close and personal with active duty military members receiving care at the hospital. Bill Belichick said of the event, “I’d say the moving things were just how appreciative they were of us being there. But the reality of it was, they’re the heroes. Not us. Even more than that, the real heroes are the ones that didn’t come back.”
Aside from the coaching and medical staff, the connection between the Patriots and USNA is also evident by a recently added player on the team. A newcomer to the team this year and a 5th-round draft pick (#166) in the 2015 NFL Draft, Ensign Joe Cardona ’15 is the current starting long snapper for the New England Patriots. He was the highest Navy player drafted since Napoleon McCallum ’85 was selected in the 4th round of the 1986 NFL Draft.
The rich tradition of Navy and USNA involvement in the team is also often apparent on the sidelines during practice and games. Often you can see those that were coached by Steve Belichick while at USNA on the Patriots sidelines, including Ed Reid ’78, who was a Defensive End at UNSA, and currently lives in Annapolis where he works as the Nat
ional Account Sales Manager for Auto Desk in Washington, DC. Ed is often accompanied on the sidelines by his classmate, partner in crime and spiritual adviser Kevin “The Grinch” Lynch ’78, who resides in Portsmouth, RI, where he works as the Executive Director of Business Development for TYCO Integrated Security.
Even in the air for game travel, the connection is apparent. The team’s Delta 757/767 Captain for the Patriot Charter Flights has often been Matthew McLaughlin ’81. A former tight end for USNA, Matthew played for Steve Belichick. Captain McLaughlin’s head coach during his time at the Naval Academy was George Welch. During his time there, Captain McLaughlin and the team held a 3-1 record versus Army and competed in two bowl games, including the inaugural Holiday Bowl in San Diego in 1978 against BYU (Navy won 23-16). This bowl game was particularly exciting as it was the first bowl game Navy competed in since the era of Roger Staubach. In addition to Captain
McLaughlin, another Delta 757/767 pilot, Jeff Johnson ’84 has provided the Patriots charter service as well. Robert Kraft, Chairman and CEO of the New England Patriots, and the Kraft family have also demonstrated great support of multiple wounded warrior foundations and military personnel. They have not only surrounded the New England Patriots with many alumni of the Naval Academy, but have consistently shown their support for the Navy and USNA through their many charitable efforts.
It is fully evident that the USNA legacy is alive and well within the Patriots organization. The bridge initially paved almost six decades ago remains unshakable.