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Fumble to Recovery: The NFL's Joe Andruzzi on Living It Up in Boston

A cancer diagnosis ended the NFL career of this New England Patriots offensive guard. Now, eight years into remission, he's coaching, running his own charity, and loving life in his adopted hometown.

Joe Andruzzi had earned three Super Bowl championships when his NFL career was cut short in 2007 with a cancer diagnosis: non-Hodgkin's Burkitt's lymphoma. Today, the former offensive guard is cancer-free and has launched a charity to aid other families experiencing similar health struggles. We sat down for a chat about his work, his life in Boston, and, well, his three rings.

New York, then Green Bay, New England, Cleveland, Scotland. You’ve lived and played professional football all over. Of those, what's been your favorite place to live?

I’d have to say New England. My wife and I, our kids, we’ve had a great career here. The whole area where we live between Boston and Providence, there’s a lot going on. We’ve been throughout New England and traveled through five cities in the U.S. and we’ve come back.

Favorite sports moment as a player?

The three great moments of winning the Super Bowl.

Favorite sports moment as a spectator?

Last year, coaching with the team—I’m the assistant strength and conditioning coach. Watching the game going back and forth with the Seahawks. That last-second interception was amazing.

Do you still travel?

Trying to. We have a trip we do every summer. My family’s been doing it for many years now, probably longer than I’ve been alive. We go down to Wildwood, New Jersey. Other than that, we are big Disney-goers.

Can you impart any travel wisdom on us?

Don’t go crazy on vacations. Vacations are a time when you want to try to be relaxed. Just go with the flow.

In your opinion, what is it that makes people want to come to New England?

The whole atmosphere. You can be at the Cape in an hour on a beach. Or, you can be in the city; Boston and Providence are two great cities.

What’s your favorite thing about Boston?

The food.

Since you've stopped playing ball, you've started a charity, the Joe Andruzzi Foundation. What do you hope to accomplish and, to make a football analogy, at any point in your work will you feel like you’ve reached the end zone?

The ultimate goal is, of course, going to be the cure. With that not happening anytime soon, [the goal is] the care for loved ones. I was in that hospital room, [and] those walls close in on you. It’s a tough battle. It becomes a tough battle for the whole family, so we step in to try to help out.

How has surviving cancer had an impact on your own approach to life?

Life is short, and there is only so much time you have on this Earth. For me to pay it forward, to take my NFL career and surviving my battle with cancer in 2007, to then form the foundation, is truly rewarding. Knowing we have many supporters out there helping with the foundation is really great.

Where is Joe Andruzzi headed next?

Summer’s here, so I’ll be heading back to Wildwood. Life’s short. You can’t change what you did yesterday or worry about tomorrow; you got to live for today. With the kids growing up, it goes by fast, so I enjoy every moment.

6 Things to Do in Boston that Get A Thumb's Up from Joe

Museum of Science hosts "The Science Behind Pixar" exhibit (©Michael Malyszko)
Museum of Science hosts "The Science Behind Pixar" exhibit (©Michael Malyszko)

  • Fogo de Chão: Diners with mammoth appetites love this Brazilian steak house where tasty cuts of meat keep coming until you're full.
  • Boston Duck Tours: One of Boston's most popular attractions, this aptly named amphibious sightseeing adventure roams city streets and cruises the Charles River.
  • New England Patriots: Pro football kicks off preseason in August, so undoubtedly fans will see Andruzzi at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro cheering on his team.
  • Davio's: With two locations—one in Boston and one at Patriot Place—dinner at this elegant Italian restaurant is easy and accessible. Expect: house-made pasta and several steak options.
  • Museum of Science: Disney fans should check out this science center for its latest exhibition "The Science Behind Pixar."
  • Castle Island: Get your beach fix at this South Boston destination that features sandy stretches, scenic views of Boston Harbor, a huge playground, and a really cool, historic fort.