If you’re even a casual football fan, you probably know by now that the New England Patriots won the 2015 Super Bowl. But you may not know about the man called “a critical part of the team’s success”, though he’s not part of the coaching staff and has never played a single down.
His name is Jack Easterby and he’s the Patriots’ team chaplain. In that role, he hosts regular Bible study classes and has an office in the Patriots’ complex where he counsels players and their wives. Interestingly, Easterby doesn’t push religion. He considers himself “a character coach” and his goal is to help the football players become better human beings.
Easterby was featured in a recent story on ESPN and one thing that becomes clear is that he has established close personal bonds with many of the players. He is known as a “hugger” and when he meets people “he pulls them in for an embrace, raising their handshake to his heart”.
He’s available to the Patriots’ players 24/7 and it is said that “when he’s not listening, he’s texting, when he’s not texting, he’s writing individual notes”, recapping the players’ personal goals and reminding them of how thankful he is to know them. One player says, “he just wants to love you, to be your friend”.
One message that Easterby has passed on to the Patriots’ is that they need to keep their jobs, as professional athletes, in perspective. He tells them that “football is temporary” and to never forget how blessed they are to have the ability to earn a living playing a sport. He reminds them to “focus on their gifts—their beautiful wives or girlfriends or children”.
During the season, Easterby talked frequently with Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady and it seems to have had an effect. During Super Bowl week, when Brady was being peppered with questions about whether or not the Patriots cheated (in a minor scandal called “Deflategate”), he had this even-keeled response:
“Everyone will say, ‘God, it’s been a tough week for you. But it’s been a great week for me, to really be able to recalibrate the things that are important in my life and understand the people that support me, and love me, and care about me.”
FOUR LIFE LESSONS I PICKED UP FROM JACK EASTERBY
- Keep Things in Perspective. Easterby reminds us that our jobs are secondary to the important things in life—like the care, companionship and appreciation of our loved ones and friends. Jobs are temporary while our relationships can last a lifetime and are really what life is all about.
- Always Give Thanks. During Super Bowl week, Easterby texted players that he was grateful for “another opportunity to serve” and “blessed to have a chance to impact”. I believe a daily prayer of gratitude is the best way for all of us to recognize the good in our lives. Best of all, giving daily thanks has a funny way of opening the door for even more blessings to enter our lives.
- Communication is Vital. Easterby is continually checking in with the players who seek his counsel, making sure they’re on the right track. He calls, he writes, he texts. Ask yourself: who in your life could be better served by your regular recognition, encouragement or praise?
- Be Humble. “I’m so humbled to be a part of this,” says Easterby. In the words of John Templeton, “without humility, we may become too self-satisfied with past glories to launch boldly into the challenges ahead”. We must continue to strive to move the ball forward, never resting on our past accomplishments or laurels. Today is a new day with new opportunities to serve those around us.
This post previously appeared on my Patheos column Wake Up Call, February 17, 2015.