I remember interviewing Matt Light in the New England Patriots' locker room this past January after their playoff win over the Denver Broncos. Light was funny, engaging and most importantly calm and at peace, which is not the norm in the playoffs.
Two weeks later, Light was preparing for Super Bowl XLVI against the New York Giants. I spent time at his podium with other media twice in Indianapolis. Again, I was pleasantly surprised how relaxed Light was in such a high-pressure situation. The biggest game of the year was upcoming, and Light was the left tackle responsible for protecting quarterback Tom Brady against the NFL's most formidable defensive line.
Although I didn't know it at the time, it didn't surprise me when reports began to surface that Light would retire after 11 seasons. Light made it official Monday with a formal ceremony in Foxborough, Mass.
Light is a rarity in the NFL, because he knew when to walk away. He's 33, appears in good health and has the rest of his life ahead of him with his family and children. Light also is a three-time Super Bowl champion and three-time Pro Bowler.
"When you know it's your time, you just know," Light said, according to ESPNBoston.com.
Light could have played another year or two at a high level. He was under contract with the Patriots one more season and had a starting job waiting for him. Light wasn't forced to retire, like so many former NFL players. Light chose to retire.
At a time when football injuries, concussions and post-NFL life are being put under the microscope, Light provides a beacon of hope that retired players can walk away from the game they love just fine. The key is for players to be mentally and physically prepared for the next phase, which is not always easy.