Looking for the perfect connecting thread between the upcoming NFL playoffs and the recent bounty of winter snowfall? How about this article from Backcountry Magazine: "Out of Pocket: How skiing kept NFL legend Drew Bledsoe grounded."
Wait. Drew Bledsoe is a powder hound? A lifelong backcountry skier?
Yes indeed. Very much so. Who knew?
"[Pats owner Robert] Kraft looked at me and nodded his head and didn't say anything," Bledsoe tells article author Brian Schott, about the fooball boss's reaction to the heli-skiing trip Bledsoe took with his father. "When I signed my next contract, it had this very strict language about how much I had to pay the Patriots back if I got hurt skiing - which were big numbers," Bledsoe continues.
For the Patriots, pigskins and powder did not mix.
"So what does a young, hotshot quarterback do when he reviews the terms the lawyers have outlined? Or when coach Bill Parcells tells him not to ski?" writes Schott (whose website provides a PDF of the article in full). "He finds a Lloyd's of London underwriter that will insure him for 20 ski days a year with a one-of-a-kind insurance policy.
"Sking was too much a part of his soul."
Bledsoe learned to ski from his father when he was a mere two-years-old, long before he developed the 6 and a half foot frame, and accompanying arm strength that would pave his way to a career in professional football.
Bledsoe kept his skiing largely under the radar during his days as a top-notch NFL franchise quarterback (back in those pre-Brady/Bellichick days, which admittedly seem like a century ago). He never skiied in New England, but rather got his downhill days out in Whitefish, Montana, where he has retained a secondary residence since signing his first big contract.
"His attitude was that he'll play football for a few years, but ski all his life," Bledsoe's father tells Schott. "His attitude about skiing, and how it fit in with the rest of his life and his relationship with football, was powerful. All the powers that be - Bill Parcells in particular - wanted him to quit skiing. Drew viewed things in terms of the bigger scheme of his life. Skiing in Drew's life has been so important because it kept him grounded."
Today Bledsoe, the Washington native who grew up skiing the Cascades with his father (who in turn learned the sport from Drew's rancher grandfather) regularly makes the twelve hour drive from his home in Bend, Oregon (in the shadow of not-too-shabby Mount Bachelor) to western Montana. There he steps his boots into a pair of woodens skis that read "custom made for Drew Bledsoe," and, appropriately enough, have a #11 topsheet on them.
So, maybe Bledsoe's pigskin career has made its way into the powdery backcountry a bit after all.