ATLANTA — Jack Easterby landed a pretty sweet job out of college, working in salary cap administration for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But Easterby’s true passion in athletics went far beyond the minutiae of incentives and partial guarantees.

“I’ve always been a people guy, but when you’re 20, when you graduate from school, you get the job they’ll give you,” Easterby said at Super Bowl media night. “You don’t get to pick the one that you want. And so for me, it was a start.”

Eventually, Easterby created his own job. Now the character coach of the New England Patriots, Easterby holds a position that is unique in function and importance.

What does he do for the Patriots?

Anything, really.


He was hired by the Patriots in 2013 after two seasons as the team chaplain of the Chiefs. According to Lorenzo Reyes of USA Today, Easterby was was brought in to manage the fallout from the Aaron Hernandez arrest. He’s been a fixture in the organization ever since, handling any number of tasks each week.

Last summer, for example, Easterby “spearheaded” a team-building contest that lasted through training camp, according to special teams captain Matthew Slater. The premise: Players who would otherwise wouldn’t spend time together – of different ages and from different position groups – were lumped into teams and asked to learn about each other. They were quizzed intermittently throughout camp, and Easterby tallied the points.

Easterby is often seen strolling through the locker room with players after practice or team meetings. It seemed like once a week he and the McCourty twins were almost in tears from laughing so hard.

“Jack is a special guy,” Pats cornerback Jason McCourty said. “He’s done a lot for me this season. Not just for me, but for a lot of guys in this locker room. Being a guy that you can go talk to about anything, a guy that’s going to shoot you a text just to say, ‘I hope your day is going well.'”

“For us as football players and men, going through a lot of different challenges, whether it’s transitioning (to a new team), whether it’s football issues, whatever it is, he’s there,” McCourty added.

Rarely available for interviews, the 35-year-old Easterby described his job in simple terms (and in a distinct South Carolina drawl): “Servant. To serve anybody and everybody in the building, to help us be prepared on and off the football field. To be prepared as men, as people, and hopefully to stay out of the way. And also to be the glue for our team. We have a lot of issues throughout the year, as you can imagine. It’s a roller-coaster, right? A six-month roller-coaster that we go through as a team.”


Easterby’s path to New England as the NFL’s only “character coach” began when he left the Jaguars in 2006. The job in salary cap administration just wasn’t for him. Both his grandparents were dealing with Alzheimer’s, and he decided to move back home to Columbia, South Carolina, to be closer to them. He connected with Dave Odom, then the men’s basketball coach at the University of South Carolina, and launched the “character program,” which he maintained and developed through 2011. Then Scott Pioli called. It was off to Kansas City.

During Easterby’s second year on the job, Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher – a standout in college at the University of Maine – murdered his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, and then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and committed suicide in front of coach Romeo Crennel and Pioli.

There was no playbook for how Easterby was supposed to handle this. He still reflects on what he jotted down in his memo pad from that tragic weekend.

“My heart, my mind, were conditioned through that moment,” he said. “It was an incredible lesson learned. I think it’s prepared me for a lot of things that I don’t even know that it’s prepared me for, if that makes any sense. I transitioned from what we went through there to here, and I didn’t know what we were going through here.”

Easterby was referring to the Hernandez arrest, an equally painful situation.

In the five years since, Easterby’s role has expanded quite a bit. It’s hard for him to describe his responsibilities because they’re always changing. He relishes the thrill of another Super Bowl run. When asked about his work with Josh Gordon, Easterby said, “Whether it’s the highs with moments like this or the lows with different things that happen, your heart rises and sinks.”

Easterby has experienced the full range of emotions in New England. He said he’s grown with each experience, and he’s ready to embrace whatever lands on his desk next. In his job, there’s no way of knowing what lies ahead.

“Whether it’s government, whether it’s major corporations, we have things that we need to be (maintained),” Easterby explained. “We need to be loved. We need to be given purpose. Sports give us that, but also we need to make sure we take care of people that are involved in sports. That’s been my passion.”

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