Questions and Answers with Colts Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
Question: When did you first start playing football?
Answer: "I first started playing football in the sixth grade when I was 12 years old. My dad played in the NFL, and he said that when he retired my brother and I could start playing."
Q: What do you remember about your first team?
A: "I remember a lot. I remember I played tight end and outside linebacker and wore number 83. Our town was so small that we combined three towns to make up one team, so our team name was the Norfolk Medfield Millis Vikings. Our Pop Warner team didn't have enough money to have the cool stickers on the back of our helmets so we had a red stripe on the top of our helmets. I remember being jealous of the other teams with the stickers on their helmets."
Q: To get to this level, it has to be more than money or fame. What do you love about the game that has kept you playing?*
A: "I think that it is true that some guys love being in the NFL and some guys love football. The guys who love football seem to be the guys who last longer and have longer careers. The guys who you see go out early, people call them 'busts.' Those are the people who love being in the NFL more than they love football. It's more of a mindset. You can tell who loves the game and who loves the things that game can bring you."
Q: What was your best sport growing up?
A: "I played every sport you could imagine and never focused on one sport. I thought my best sport was baseball, but no one else did. I was a catcher, but I think that football kind of chose me. I remember my junior year, college coaches came to watch me pitch and I didn't pitch well, but that same day I got scholarship offers from big-time football schools that were in the Big 10. I just think that football chose me."
Q: If there were one sport you wish you could play instead of football what would it be?*
A: "I wish I could play golf because you don't get tackled in golf."
Q: When did you move to quarterback?
A: "In ninth grade I went out for the freshman football team at my high school in Boston and was trying out for tight end. Someone overthrew me, I picked up the ball and threw it back and one of the coaches called me over and told me to get in the quarterback line. I thought it was because he thought I threw a big spiral, but I later found out that he thought I was too skinny to block anybody."
Q: Was moving to quarterback any easy transition?
A: "Yes, I was on a really talented team my freshman year in high school. Our team went 8-0 that year and we were the team that never punted the whole year. I was very fortunate to handoff and throw to guys that were really good. It was a great first year I will never forget."
Q: What is your best football memory?
A: "My best football memory is actually not of me playing, but my dad playing. It was Super Bowl XVIII, January 22, 1984. My dad was playing for the L.A. Raiders, and he blocked an extra point against the Washington Redskins in Tampa Bay, and it was just an awesome game. The Redskins were heavily-favored and the Raiders came out and dominated the game and had a bunch of big plays. My dad was a tight end, but he came in on the field goal block team because he was tall, and had a good push and rush and blocked the kick. What's super funny is at the time I was living in L.A. and my homeroom teacher's brother was Clint Didier, who was the starting tight end for the Redskins."
Q: When did you first think that was real?
A: "I was a ball boy for the New England Patriots when I was a junior in high school. I could remember the quarterback on the team kind of instilling in me a little bit of a belief that I could possible make it the next level. Working with them every day and being around coaches all those guys and what it took for them to be successful (was good to see). I think it gave me a little bit of a glimpse that maybe that is a goal that I could attain. My parents would say to me, 'Only one percent of high school athletes go on a scholarship to college and only one percent of college athletes go on to play professionally, so you need to do well in school and have a backup plan.' It almost didn't become the backup plan for me because it was the plan. I almost put this dream out of reach, but being a ball boy for those guys helped me realize that if I gave it all I got, this could really happen."
Q: If you were not an NFL player, what would you like to be doing instead?
A: "I think I would have liked to join the Peace Corps for two years before going to get a real job."
Q: Do you have a pre-game ritual?
A: "I try to get a routine, but it's pretty flexible. I think it's important to have a routine, but I think I try to change it year-to-year depending on stuff I learn or maybe the way we call plays. Coach-to-quarterback communication system is really important. I study the plays depending on who is speaking into my helmet, and I try to study either with someone or by myself and focus on the mechanisms that they use to help me get ready for the games."
Q: What kind of music do you listen to that gets you pumped up?
A: "I try to not get pumped up on game day. The natural emotions from the stadium and the crowd get you completely geeked up and get your adrenaline going, so I try to almost calm myself down. Sometimes I'll wear headphones plugged into nothing just so people don't talk to me and so I can have quiet, calm before the storm knowing it's going to be a physical three-to-four-hour fight."
Q: Do you have any post career plans after football?
A: "I definitely want to work, but I'm not sure what I want to do. I would love to coach an NFL team. That would be my dream job, but I know for me I really learned a lot watching my dad's work ethic on the field. When he was coaching, he always seemed to be working harder being a coach than being a player, which inspired me. I think that is a lesson that is taught not caught."
Q: Who is the person most responsible for you being in the NFL?
A: "I can't narrow it to one person, but definitely being around the game with my dad is an obvious choice. My quarterback coach my sophomore, junior and senior year of high school was very influential on my development and helped me earned a scholarship to college. Once I was in college, I had a lot of different coaches that all taught me a lot and were all very good. I would say I had a list of Hall of Fame coaches that all taught me a lot about the game, and I was very fortunate to come across them. Just competing with my dad and two brothers all the time, helped us set the standard for each other. People I knew were going out and partying, but we were having throwing competitions and running routes on each other or covering each other, doing fun workouts. That's what we did to help us improve. The peer pressure that I had was who can run the farthest today and who can throw up first. We were always pushing each other and focusing on our goals."
Q: Do you a particular coach or teacher that was a huge mentor to your football career?
A: "My freshman football coach was really pivotal in my development. He moved me to quarterback and gave me great advice when I was picking a college, which is an unbelievably stressful thing to do. He was very tough, but he was the coach of the team that never punted. In my brain, he is famous. He turned boys into men."
Q: Did you have a favorite team growing up?
A: "My favorite team was whomever my dad was playing for. He ended with the New York Giants, so the Giants ended up being my favorite team at the end."
Q: Who were you favorite players growing up?
A: "I loved Lawrence Taylor, Mark Bavaro and before that, I loved John Elway. In sixth grade those were the jerseys I was wearing, those were my guys."
Q: What was your first car growing up?
A: "I never had a car. I got my first car when the Green Bay Packers drafted me. I actually was in a Volkswagen dealership, sitting in a red Volkswagen Beetle Bug and my agent called me and told me that the Packers were signing me. I was so excited that I bought the car and paid $200 over asking price. I wasn't the biggest negotiator!"
*Q: What was your first job? *
A: "My first real job was selling Dell's Lemonade at concerts in the Boston, Providence area."
Q: What was your toughest job?
A: "My toughest job was working in the Reebok Warehouse. I would box up the shoes that they would send to the athletes, but it was the summer going into my freshman year of college. I never saw the sun and was in a warehouse. Even to this day, the smell of new shoes kind of makes me sick."
Q: Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you and if so, why?
A: "My freshman year college coach at Boston College was Tom Coughlin. He had this sign near my locker that said, 'The strength of the wolf is that of the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf.' I don't know why I liked it so much, but I really felt as a team there is a lot of strength that you can get from one another, but you also have to push to keep everybody going."
Q: What is it about football that drives you the most?
A: "I think it's the greatest game in the world, in terms of being a team sport. So many other sports have one guy taking over the game, but in football there is so much more that goes into the sport in terms of team. Whether it's player-to-player, on offense and defense, or coach-to- player, the trainers and the camera guy, everybody plays a part in winning or losing. I think that's pretty special."