Meet Nancy Meier, the longest-tenured full-time Patriots employee
In 1975, a 19-year-old Nancy Meier thought she had settled on a career path.
Studying fashion merchandising at now-closed Burdett College in Boston, Meier was intent on "breaking into that business."
That was before fate intervened.
Prior to the NFL draft that year, a friend who worked for the New England Patriots asked Meier to accompany her to work and lend a hand with preparing documents.
Never one to do anything half-heartedly, Meier threw herself into tasks like typing up scouting reports and other draft-related paperwork. The more she did, the more intrigued by the work Meier became.
Then-Patriots director of player personnel Bucko Kilroy was so impressed, he offered Meier a permanent position. She accepted and put fashion merchandising in the rearview mirror.
Little did Meier know how permanent her new job would become.
Now a 62-year-old grandmother of twins, she is working harder than ever in her 44th season with the Patriots as the organization's longest-tenured full-time employee.
What began as a minimum-wage clerical job performed on a manual typewriter gradually evolved into her current role as director of scouting administration.
Among other things, Meier is responsible for coordinating the logistics for all free-agent signings, tryouts and draft visits. She oversees travel arrangements for the team's scouting staff and helps players arrange to bring extended family members to games.
She also serves as the team's liaison to the NFL for all personnel communication, making sure all required paperwork for any team transactions is error-free and promptly sent to the league office.
Meier even assists rookies with things like finding housing and opening bank accounts. She is also a certified notary public, providing that service to players and fellow staff members.
"It was never my intention to stay for more than 40 years, and certainly never thought the job would turn into such a career path, but the more I did it, the more it seemed like the perfect thing for me," Meier said. "I have worked with so many incredible people over the years and witnessed first-hand the team growing into an NFL powerhouse. It's hard to explain to people on the outside how special it is to be part of this organization."
When starting left tackle Trent Brown met with the media after being acquired by the Patriots from the San Francisco 49ers in April, he shared a story that illustrates the 24/7 nature of Meier's position.
"I was at dinner [after learning of the trade] when I got a call," Brown said. "It was probably like 10 o'clock, and I was on the phone with Ms. Nancy when she said, 'I'm going to try to get you on the earliest flight.' And I was on the flight here from New York at 6 o'clock the next morning. I didn't sleep ... trying to make sure I didn't miss that flight."
Here is Meier's story, in her own words:
Super Bowl preparation
I have played a variety of roles in helping prepare for 11 Super Bowls. I have always thought it was interesting that our first three Super Bowls (XX, XXXI and XXXVI) were all in New Orleans and we lost the first two, but the third time was a charm. As for this Super Bowl, I've been busy doing a lot of logistics support and planning, like overseeing all commercial travel connected with the team. That means making sure family members and our scouting staff, for example, get to the Super Bowl in a timely manner, have lodging and other things. I also make myself available to anyone who needs support with anything.
People tell me I do have the coolest job and ask how well I know Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski ... Maybe the coolness factor is almost lost on me because I've been here so long, but what I do is very cool.Nancy Meier
Because I have so much history with the team, my role kind of developed on its own as I've done things to support our general managers and player personnel directors. I take care of handling the paper and electronic trails for everything from players contracts, interaction with agents, player signing and releases, injured reserve and the inactives list.
That may seem like tedious work, but it takes on a higher level of importance because everything has to be done in a timely manner, be completely accurate and sent to the league office by a set deadline. There are ramifications if those requirements are not met. I have to keep up to date on all NFL rules regarding transactions and other paperwork.
Even though I'm still helping with Super Bowl preparation, I've already starting planning for the NFL combine (Feb. 26-March 4) to be sure travel is set for our scouts, coaches and anyone else who attends. From there, I jump right into free agency with all the paperwork and travel planning that's involved.
After that, it's coordinating bringing potential draft choices for workouts and then helping all drafted players with travel to get them here to meet with the training staff, the strength and conditioning staff and others. I also help the rookies transition from college life to professional life with things like finding the best place to live or starting their own bank accounts.
One thing always leads into another throughout the year.
A typical day
There is no such thing as a typical day because it all depends on what's going and what time of year it is. This business is unpredictable, and that's one thing I really like -- never knowing what I'll have to handle on a given day when I begin the day. That keeps the job fresh.
What she likes most about working for the Patriots
I really appreciate how respected I feel by those I work with, from coaches to executives, scouts and players. That makes going to work every day so gratifying. I feel I can approach anyone in the organization with anything and they are going to take what I say to heart. I take pride in always being accessible so anyone can reach me at any time about concerns. This job does not have set hours.
People tell me I do have the coolest job and ask how well I know Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski, and I'm like "Yeah, I know Tom, I know Gronk," and sometimes people see players call or text me. Maybe the coolness factor is almost lost on me because I've been here so long, but what I do is very cool. I still love it after all these years and I'm humbled by it.
How it began
I was planning on a career in the fashion business when my friend who worked for Patriots said she could use my help. I learned a lot right away from typing up scouting reports, such as all the size and speed differences between different player positions.
For example, I didn't realize the size difference between a typical running back and linebacker when I started, but the more I became introduced to those things, the more I wanted to know and was thankful to be offered a full-time job even though I started at the minimum wage, which was $2.10 an hour at the time. My roles grew as I learned more.
How the job and the NFL has changed with time
The job was very clerical when I started -- all done, of course, without computers. Obviously, we could do much more as technology came in with computers and then internet, cell phones and social media. Everyone and everything is much more accessible now. Getting to the point where I can work from anywhere at any time is the biggest change.
As far as the NFL, just the numbers of people working in the league office has more than tripled. With players, more is expected of them now as far as offseason workouts. We did not have a strength and conditioning staff when I started. I think the character of NFL players, overall, is more refined now. We don't think of some of them as having been hit in the head a few too many times.
On success in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era
In my view, the success just unfolded on its own. I had gotten to know Bill during the 1996 season when he was on former coach Bill Parcells' staff. We could see what Bill was capable of and there was excitement when he returned as head coach.
With Tom, we carried four quarterbacks on our 53-man roster his rookie year, in 2000, and he was No. 4 to begin the season before working his way up. We did have a great quarterback in Drew Bledsoe, who put up some great numbers, but then suffered that horrible injury (sheared blood vessel in his chest) in Tom's second year. Tom took over and became a great success. Our fans and the organization are indebted to Tom for what he has done, but he has never sought self-glory. He's just always wanted to be part of championship teams.
The first Super Bowl win
When I started, the Patriots were really overshadowed by the success of the Celtics, Red Sox and Bruins, so to get that first Super Bowl win, especially on the heels of 9/11 earlier that season, was amazing.
You never know how something like that is going to feel until you experience it. The first Super Bowl parade was an incredible experience. So many thousands of fans turning out, on tops of buildings, hanging out of windows and all the confetti -- amazing. It gives me chills, still.
Her collection of five Super Bowl and 10 (soon to be 11) AFC Championship rings
I keep them all in a safe at home and take out that jewelry occasionally for people who have not seen things like that up close. They come in the most beautiful packaging. Each one has different memories for me. They bring back what the team went through that year, everything that went into winning another championship and who made the biggest impact during the year from players to coaches to front office people.
Does she ever rest?
I have a four-week break every June, which is like heaven on earth. That's when I actually get away from football and kind of reconnect with my family. Then, it's time to start the cycle all over again with training camp.