The Thayer community got a healthy dose of “The Patriot Way” Tuesday night as former New England Patriots Julian Edelman and James White took center stage in the second installment of the Thayer Global Speaker Series.
The two Pats greats discussed the topic of “Leading On & Off the Field” with moderator Bob Socci, who has served as the play-by-play voice of the Patriots since 2013. The event, held in the Center for the Arts’ Hale Theater, was packed. Given the demand for tickets, pre-registration was required and priority was given to students.
The highly anticipated evening did not disappoint. Discussion ranged from playoff heroics and the importance of diet to the harmful effects of bullying, the value of kindness, and the need to address social justice issues. One message, however, remained constant throughout the discussion: success is a team sport.
“It’s accountability,” said White, adding that he learned how to be a true professional by watching the likes of Edelman and other established Patriot players before him. “It’s showing up every day and being your best self.”
Edelman agreed. He said it was almost impossible not to work hard and put team goals first when he saw teammates like Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown, Kevin Faulk, and Richard Seymour — not to mention head coach Bill Belichick and the entire coaching staff — doing the same.
Edelman also made the point that “The Patriot Way” style of leadership starts at the top, with team owner Robert Kraft, and extends to every facet of the organization, from the training staff to the equipment staff to any group responsible for team success.
“People took pride in their job,” Edelman said of his 12 seasons as a Patriot. “People took pride in the process.”
In the spirit of the evening, Socci began by asking White and Edelman to take turns sharing how the other player was, in Socci’s words, “the quintessential Patriot.” In response, White called Edelman “the ultimate competitor” while Edelman noted that the quiet White, a Patriot captain for four straight seasons, led by example and let his actions speak for him.
“He brought his lunch pail and his hard hat and just got to work,” Edelman said of his former teammate.
Asked a question during a lively Q&A with students, Socci emphasized that broadcasting also has those who work hard, lead by example, and share their insights with those just getting started. He recalled the encouragement and constructive criticism given to him by the late Gil Santos, the beloved broadcaster who called Patriots games for 36 years and preceded Socci in the booth.
“He was the voice of the Patriots and he always will be,” Socci said of Santos.
Student questions varied greatly, but one question regarding performance anxiety brought Edelman back his theme of preparation as the key to success.
“Believe in yourself, but that self-confidence comes from preparation,” said Edelman, who likened success to painting a wall in one’s house where the prep work — the clearing of furniture, the wiping down of the wall, the taping of window trim and outlet covers — is much harder than the actual painting. Both Edelman and White agreed that, after a week of film sessions and exhausting practices, the games were the most fun part of their work week.
When the topic of bullying arose, White urged the audience to “spread love, not hate” and reminded students that they have the opportunity to make a difference right now.
“You can dramatically impact [someone’s] life just by having a simple conversation,” he told the crowd.
The tone of the night was fun and festive. Head of School Chris Fortunato and Director of Athletics Bobbi Moran welcomed Edelman, White, and Socci to campus at the start of the evening and later named the trio “honorary Tigers” as the three tried on their new Thayer swag. To end the night, White and Edelman took turns throwing autographed footballs to 20 Thayer students in the audience who had been randomly selected for the keepsakes.
Drafted in the fourth round out of the University of Wisconsin, White played all eight seasons of his NFL career with the Patriots and scored the winning touchdown in Super Bowl LI against Atlanta. His nonprofit, The Sweet Feet Foundation, provides scholarships and resources for underprivileged youth for both athletics and academics. He is also involved with Best Buddies International, an international nonprofit creating opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
A quarterback at Kent State, Julian Edelman played 12 seasons with the Patriots as a receiver and return specialist after being drafted by the team in the seventh round. The MVP of Super Bowl LIII, Edelman retired as second all-time in postseason receiving yards and postseason receptions, behind only Jerry Rice. He is also an advocate for Best Buddies and has been a strong voice against antisemitism.
A play-by-play announcer with more than two decades of experience broadcasting minor league baseball, Socci also was the play-by-play voice of the Navy Midshipmen football team for 15 seasons and Navy basketball for 11 seasons. He is a strong supporter of the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism.
The Thayer Global Speaker Series brings thought leaders, innovators, and difference-makers to the Thayer campus to engage the community in issues that matter to the world.