Matt Light saw the football light. He got out on his terms, not someone else's. He chose when and how rather than let injury or slipping performance decide.
Yes, that mattered.
The New England Patriots offensive tackle and former Purdue standout is retiring after 11 seasons and three Pro Bowl trips. He started in five Super Bowls (one of only five players to have ever done that) and helped the Patriots win three of them.
Light, 33, anchored an offensive line built to protect quarterback Tom Brady and, boy, did it deliver. New England won nine division titles in Light's 11 seasons with five AFC championship. Light played in 175 regular season games with 173 starts. He also started all 20 postseason games.
Brady hopes retirement in May doesn't translate to the fall.
“I'm going to try to talk him out of retirement,” Brady says, “because I still want him back for a few more years.
“He's an exceptional player, person and teammate. He was tough; he was physical; he was a great example. He allowed our offense to be very versatile because of his versatility.
Light, a second-round pick in 2001, struggled early on with New England.
“Our time together could easily be described as love-hate,” Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia said in a New England press release. "We went through times when it was a little rough and times when it was very good, particularly the last three years.
“He's walking away in the prime of his career. He could play longer. He's walking away after having a great season. A lot of guys would never do that. But he's looked at it, analyzed it and decided to move on. He'll be missed.”
Light was an All-Big Ten offensive lineman at Purdue career that started with him playing tight end before switching to tackle. The Boilers' offensive line coach then was Danny Hope, now the head coach.
“Matt is the best I've ever been around,” Hope said in a release. “He is an outstanding leader, a great teammate and an unbelievable person. He brought all of those qualities to the game, and was a real difference maker on and off the field.”
Added Scarnecchia: “I remember Charlie Weis (then a New England assistant coach) and I went to Purdue to look at Light and (quarterback) Drew Brees. It didn't take a genius to figure out they were the motors behind that team.”
Light's off-field contributions included “The Light Foundation,” an organization that provides young people with grants, scholarships and outdoor activities.
“As proud as I am of Matt's many contributions to those championship teams,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said, “I believe his lasting legacy will be measured by the many positive things he's done to help others in the community. He will always be a member of the Patriots family.”