Matt Light Talks Celebrity Shoot-Out

Longtime Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light is known primarily for the 11 years he spent protecting Tom Brady’s blindside. But he’s also come to be known around these parts for running one of the area’s most unique charity events. Today he hosts his annual Celebrity Shoot-out, where local celebs and athletes pick up rifles and take to the course to test their aim. It all goes to benefit the Matt Light Foundation, which runs outdoor education programs for kids. To be honest, I’ve always been sort of fascinated by the whole thing, so I caught up with Light a little while ago to chat about it.

So tell me about your foundation and the Shoot-out. How does all this work?

This will be our 8th annual celebrity shootout. We’ve built up our foundation over the last 10 or 11 years to the point where we’ve got a lot of programs. We’ve got a 600-acre facility in Ohio that we maintain year round—a lot of different groups use it as well. This one event is what really funds our organization throughout the year. To give you a visual if you’re not an outdoorsman, it’s really golfing with a shotgun. We have a course that goes all through the woods, we have different targets that are being thrown, and you’re trying to hit these clay targets. It’s very competitive. Similar in respect to golf and billiards to the degree that you don’t have to be an expert—anyone can do it. And it’s very competitive. Everybody likes to hear things go bang and everybody likes to see things blow up, so we kind of expanded on that and turned it into a charity event we’ve been doing for a long time.

You know, Josh Beckett does bowling and Jason Varitek had a putt-putt tournament. How’d you come up with shooting?

Shooting trap, skeet, sporting clay, it’s always been a big passion of mine. We host the event at Addieville East Farms in Rhode Island—one of the premiere sporting places in the country. And just having gone down there early when I first got to New England, we started thinking about how we could raise money with an event like that. We kind of started from scratch, very small, had a few games, now we’ve been maxed out, we’ve sold out every year. It’s unique.

Now, you’re from Ohio, and I think they’re a bit more used to this sort of thing there. It’s a bit out of character for us in Massachusetts.

It is out of character a little bit, but I think when you really look at the Northeast, that’s where all the major gun manufacturers are, and they have really been some of our biggest supporters over the years. But again, it’s people with great hand-eye coordination, for example our quarterbacks. Brady, he’s not an outdoorsman, he doesn’t shoot, but he picks up really quickly and it’s not surprising because you’re seeing targets thrown from a machine and they’re going extremely fast through the air and you’ve gotta pick that up, and you’ve gotta be able to acquire that target, and pull the trigger, and be smooth with your motions and the whole nine. It’s a very fun game, and it’s a very engaging game. And again it’s very competitive.

Who’s the best shot of your old teammates?

Dan Koppen won the event three years in a row. Last year, finally, Logan Mankins stepped up and took the crown from him. So between Logan and Koppen, who are of course fellow offensive linemen, they’re our finest shooters. We’ve had some pretty horrible shooters over the years as well.

Alright, so who was the worst?

Ellis Hobbs! E-Hobbs. Out of 72 possible targets I think he might have hit six. We gave him the ‘Needs Glasses’ award.

So what does the foundation go to benefit? I know you guys do a lot of stuff with kids outdoors.

Yeah, and we’ve got a lot of different programs. We’ve got scholarships that we hand out in New England and back in Ohio. We’ve got our own programming, our cultural leadership camp, where we bring in kids from all over the country. We bring them in as they’re going into their freshman year of high school and they stay the entire four years. So it’s a very intense program, where we really maintain that relationship over a long period of time. It’s all about accountability and ethics and leadership. That’s probably our biggest program, and we’ve got a whole bunch of other programs that are geared to getting kids in the outdoors and giving them opportunities that they wouldn’t get otherwise. Our facility is open year round. We’ve got a full camp in the woods. Fifteen miles of trails. And again, it’s open to so many different organizations—Boys and Girls Clubs, the YMCA, the United Way.

Now I do have to ask, just because there’s always a lot of sensitivity around guns. Is that an issue at all that anyone ever brings up with you with the Shoot-out?

You know, it’s not. I think there’s a big difference between fearing something and understanding something. I grew up with guns, it’s always been a big part of my family life, and I’ve got a great respect for a firearm. I don’t treat it lightly.

Do any of your camp’s programs involve shooting?

Sure, yeah. We have youth hunts that we put on—our youth wild turkey hunt is a big success each year. But again, there’s great organizations all over this country that teach responsible gun ownership and how to handle a firearm.

Do you ever have any parents get a little nervous about that?

No, we haven’t had any issues like that. If there were, we’d obviously address that concern. And just deal with it on a case by case basis.

Fair enough. If people want to contribute to your foundation where do they go?