BOSTON — When Martellus Bennett turned in the helmet and shoulder pads for good, he kept the playbook.
And that’s not because the Patriots let him. It’s just that he made his own copy.
Never fond of the digital version, Bennett insisted on sketching every play on a piece of notebook paper during the Patriots’ install sessions each week.
“I still remember the playbook, but I remember everybody’s playbook,” Bennett said yesterday. “I have everybody’s playbook in my office. I draw everything out.”
Save for the few days following the Patriots’ trade for his brother, Bennett hasn’t felt the urge to flip through it. All is well in retirement.
A standout tight end on the New England’s Super Bowl LI team in 2016, Bennett returned to Boston this week for a series of readings at local libraries and bookstores. His first stop: a visit to the Boston Public Library Grove Hall Branch in Dorchester yesterday afternoon. Dozens of kids came out to listen to Bennett read his new book, “Dear Black Boy,” which he originally wrote as an essay in 2016 to inspire youth to “dream bigger” than sports.
As Bennett told the audience yesterday, “The NFL Draft is coming up soon, and a lot of kids that look like us will be celebrated for their athleticism. But you don’t see that when we become doctors.” Bennett noted that 75 percent of the NFL is black, but that figure is only six percent for the tech industry.
Ever since he was playing, Bennett has always been passionate about maintaining interests and goals beyond football.
And he’s living out his retirement exactly how he envisioned. Bennett will finish his book tour in Boston this weekend and head to New York City on Monday. He’s already done readings in his hometown of Houston and Chicago. He’s completed nine other books, worked on an animated project, and signed on to write a movie (although he can’t disclose details regarding the latter just yet). Never does he watch an NFL game on TV and say, “I wish I was out there.”
“It’s been really freeing and liberating,” said Bennett, who walked away from the league in March 2018. “I feel like I’m a better person without the game of football. I’m happier. I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing and I love it so much…It’s more purposeful, for me. I want to live a life full of purpose and intention. Sometimes when we play sports and athletics you can lose your purpose.”
Bennett touched on a few other topics in an interview after yesterday’s event, including his thoughts on his brother, Michael Bennett, joining the Patriots.
Here’s what Bennett had to say:
**Bill Belichick and Michael Bennett are the perfect match
“Bill will have a lot of fun with the things he’s capable of. I think Mike will have a lot of fun because Bill will put him in the position to succeed, as well…I think Michael created that position that he plays, the Trey Flowers position. That position wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Michael. Michael was like the pioneer of that space — go inside, play outside, being able to do it on left and right. You don’t know where he’s going to line up at. When they gameplan to block somebody, you can go a lot of different ways to open up gaps for other people to rush, too. I think versatility as a player on the Patriots is what they want the most. And that versatility right there, they’re going to have a lot of fun scheming with Michael.”
**Bennett was so fired up when his brother got traded to the Patriots that he contemplated a return and even called Tom Brady
“I said, ‘Tom what do you think?’ Tom’s like, ‘You’re coming?’ You know, Tom tries to talk everybody into playing like, ‘Come on back, man! Let me make a phone call!’ But we didn’t really talk (extensively). Shut it down pretty quick so it wasn’t really lingering out there like that. You never know, though. I stay in shape, so one day I might wake up and be like, ‘F— it.’ Back half of the season. Second half, last six games before playoffs.”
**Ultimately, Bennett wanted to continue down his current path
“The only time I had the itch was when my brother got traded here. Playing with my brother, that’s the only thing I didn’t get to do in football. Playing with my brother on the Patriots would have been amazing, but at the same time I feel like my work as a creator is more important…I’m creating for other people. This is something that’s bigger than me. When I look at the kids, it’s meaningful. When I score a touchdown, it’s meaningful in that moment, but the next week it’s another game. These are things that will stay impactful for a long time.”