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I was the Plumber for 4x Pro Bowler and Patriots' Hall of Famer...

As a tradesman and a sports fan, there was nothing more exciting than working in the home of a professional athlete. In 1985 I was an Apprentice working for a Plumber who had the plumbing maintenance contract at Sullivan Stadium in Foxborough, home of the New England Patriots. 

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I was the newest hire and unfortunately, I never got a game day assignment. I did go there during the week to do some basic repair, mostly to fix broken flushometers that had suffered alcohol-induced destruction. Gameday was easy, two plumbers, each carrying a pair of Channellocks, a 4-way screwdriver, a walkie-talkie, and a lot of "Out of Order" signs. The plumbing system at Sullivan Stadium (formerly Schaefer Stadium and later Foxboro Stadium) was horrible and there were constant backups. By half time a good portion of the sinks, urinals, and toilets were out of order. After games we'd fix what we could before the next one. (Foxboro Stadium was demolished in 2002 and Gillette Stadium was built)

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A few weeks after the Patriots lost Super Bowl XX 46-10 to "Da Bears" on January 26th in New Orleans, we went to Sullivan Stadium to rebuild all the flushometers and faucets. The maintenance staff power washed the bathrooms first so everything was germ-free, and four of us spent a couple-three days there.

I was upset after the Bears had their way with on us. I had a stuffed bear hanging in my apartment that was wearing a t-shirt that read "Berry the Bears", like all Pats' fans did, and I was hoping for a win. After the lopsided defeat, I suspected the mood at the stadium would be somber. It wasn't. Everybody there was upbeat. They made it to the Super Bowl and got beaten by arguably, one of the best and most interesting teams in Super Bowl history. Nothing to be ashamed of.

First, we bumped into Coach Raymond Berry in the stairwell. He stopped and talked to us for almost ten minutes. Then we saw Steve Grogan. Grogan replaced starting QB Tony Eason in the Super Bowl after he was 0-6 passing and showed no signs of being able to avoid the rush of Chicago's "46" defense (3 sacks, a fumble, and -19 yards of total offense in the first quarter). Grogan was also very talkative. Everybody associated with the team got runners-up Super Bowl rings and they were quick to show off their jewelry. It was a great time and all the plumbers left with free caps and sweatshirts. I took the Super Bowl loss hard, but after spending time at the stadium I became more accepting and was able to move on…

In 1988,  I was an Apprentice for a plumber who ran his business out of his home in Easton. One morning in late July, he told me to take a van and go to the home of Mr. Morgan, who lived in town. He said there were several small jobs for me to complete: ice maker line install, washer/dryer hookup, an outside spigot, and the replacement of a couple of faucets. "Whatever he asks you to do, just do it". I took the materials I needed and headed to Mr. Morgan's house.

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When I got there, Mr. Morgan answered the door and let me in. He was wearing a Patriots jersey, number 86… Immediately I thought to myself, "This guy's Stanley Morgan", but my boss never said a word… Once I got going, Mr. Morgan stretched out on the carpeted floor in the family room and began playing Solitaire. I walked passed him several times, giving him second and third looks. Finally, I stopped and asked him "Are you Stanley Morgan, THE Stanley Morgan?" He laughed and said he was. I immediately shook his hand and told him how I had hurt myself in 1985 and was out of work for seven weeks and the only thing that kept me going was the Patriots' run to the Super Bowl. After a little back and forth I went back to work, after all, I was on the clock.

I could tell Stanley was bored and every time I walked past him and made a comment relating to football we had a little back 'n forth. Once we started talking about Pop Warner and then high school football, Stanley, not wanting to stop the conversation, stopped playing Solitaire, got up off the floor, and started following me around his house. He even started handing me tools. In less than an hour, we had become fast friends and he was functioning as my helper. 

New England Patriots wide receiver Irving Fryar holds up his injured finger while talking to the press on Friday afternoon, at Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. Fryar denied that the injury was caused by a knife wound inflicted by his wife during an argument on January 7. The injury caused Fryar to miss the AFC Championship game Charles Krupa. Shutterstock Images.

At one point I brought up Irving Fryar, asking Stanley if he was as nuts as the press made him out to be. I asked about the parking lot incident with his then-pregnant wife that ended in bloodshed and Fryar missing the 1985 AFC Championship game. About wrapping his car around a tree after he was injured and was heading home during a game… Stanley was mellow, low key, and non-confrontational. He laughed a bit and then told me Irving was "a really good guy in addition to being a very talented athlete", and that's all he said. I didn't push him on it.

I spent the day there, finishing everything but one faucet. Before I left I asked him if he wouldn't mind giving me his autograph. He said sure. He went into another room and returned with a 3" x 5" glossy photo of him catching a pass and asked me what he should write. My wife was seven months pregnant at the time and so I asked him to write "To Vinnie's Future Son". He asked me "What if you have a daughter?" I told him that I had a good feeling. A few minutes later his two kids walked in and he introduced me to his two daughters. (my bad) 

I told Stanley I'd be back the following morning (Friday) to finish up. He said he was leaving for training camp late in the day, but as long as I could finish by noon it wasn't a problem. He went on to say he was in great shape, but a whole crew of young receivers were coming to take his job. He looked a little concerned too. I told him "They all want to be the next Stanley Morgan. And that's a difficult task. You're one of the best receivers to ever wear a Patriots' uniform. You'll be fine". He smiled and thanked me for the kind words.

New Englan Patriots Focus On Sport. Getty Images.

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When I returned the next morning Stanley let me in. I was there to install a new kitchen faucet, nothing fancy. I walked into the kitchen and who was there wearing a big smile? Irving Fryar! I just knew Stanley told him about the questions I asked. I shook Irving's hand and he and Stanley had a good laugh on me. While Stanley was long and lean, like a greyhound, Irving was built more like a Mountain Lion. Ripped! You see these guys on T.V. in full uniform and you have no idea.

After I finished the faucet I wished them both a good camp and a good season, shook their hands, and smiled the entire way back to the shop.

The NFL was different in those days. There wasn't as much "dink and dunk" like we see today. Stanley Morgan was an elite deep threat wide receiver, finishing his career with an average of 19.2 yards per reception and four trips to the Pro Bowl. He led the league from 1979-1981 with 22.8, 22.0, and 23.4 yards per reception, pretty good numbers by any standard. His most productive year was in 1986, when with Tony Eason starting under center for 14 of the 16 games, he caught 84 passes for 1,491 yards, scored 10 touchdowns, averaged 17.8 yards per reception, and made the Pro Bowl. 

Stanley Morgan spent 13 years in a Patriots' uniform before he finished his career in Indianapolis with the Colts in 1990. (Nothing against the Colts, but I would've liked to have seen him finish his career in Foxborough.) In 2007 he was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame.

Patriots Hall Of Fame Inducts Raymond Clayborn Boston Globe. Getty Images.

I worked for quite a few professional athletes during my plumbing career and Stanley Morgan was by far the nicest, and most genuine of them all. A real gentleman and a class act.

*In December of 2015, Irving Fryar and his mother were convicted in a mortgage scam and made to pay $615,600 in restitution. Irving Fryar received a five-year prison sentence but served only eight months before he was placed under the state's Supervision Program for non-violent offenders.

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