For this episode of Slingin It with QB Velocity we had a chance to sit down and talk to Hall of Famer Andre Tippett. Andre played 11 seasons for the Patriots and played his college ball at Iowa; he now works for the Patriots as the Executive Director of Community Affairs.
Andre was an All American at Iowa playing linebacker in which then he was drafted by the Patriots in the second round of 1982 NFL Draft. During his 11-year career he was selected for 5 Pro Bowls and 2 First team all-pros. He also went to the Super Bowl with the Patriots during the 1986 in which they lost to the Chicago Bears.
In the Interview we got a chance to talk about his love for the game, , what he loved about Iowa, the “Patriot Way” and his journey as a parent to athletes.
When was the first moment you fell in love with football?
“You know, I get that question asked a lot and it probably. Believe it or not, it was my freshman year of high school. I didn't play Pop Warner or any of the youth sports at that time. Cause I didn't know anything about it.
My freshman year, you know. I get grabbed by two of my buddies and we're going for tryouts. They say they got JV tryouts, come go. I'm like I don't know what you guys are talking about. We go. I'm still have on my street clothes. I have no gear. We're out there running around.
I got on school pants and sneakers and but we're putting it in, and we go at that time and tryouts were like 2 weeks. And finally at the end of the second week, they put the list up. My name is not on it. And right then in there. It was one of those times where I've never been rejected before my life and that was the first-time rejection slapped me in the face and I kind of understood it.
And I'm like wait a minute I'm not good enough to play this game, but I like it. I like what was going on. I was out there running around. It bothered me for a whole year. My sophomore year, I vowed that I was going to make the team and they were going to have a hard time cutting me and I did. That was when I really got bit by the football bug.
I played six JV games and then the varsity team was still playing, they were getting ready to go into Thanksgiving Day game and then playoffs. And they said that they made five guys set up from JV to Varsity team. So, I was one of the 5. And so, I got to get in on Thanksgiving Day game with the Varsity team, which by the way the Varsity players were like Gods.
They were guys that in our opinion they walked on water and there were guys that I wanted to be like. I wanted to play like. And then be on the team with them. It was amazing and we ended up winning that year. The state championship game in 1975, which was in New Jersey. That was a tough division and football in New Jersey was very tough and very competitive. So, my sophomore year kind of set it off and it had me smitten. “
What makes you appreciate the game so much?
“I wish everyone could experience high school football the way I did, the way you did, the way my son did because not everybody gets that opportunity to compete successfully. You know, for the three to four years of your high school experience and let alone be around guys be around another 40 or 50 guys that at all care about winning and losing, competing, trying to make each other better and practice looking forward toward practice and then being able to go out. On Friday and Saturday and compete and make it happen.
That is the way it was to me. You know there was always somebody, setting the bar for you to get to. So, I had someone who was a senior who. Like I said I so much wanted to be like and play like and when he graduated, I took his number. I also played his position both ways on offense and defense and so I tried to emulate the same things that he did. The bar that he raised and that's the thing about high school football and that's same thing about college and pro is having the ability to raise the bar.
Not become complacent and knowing how to compete. I competed in practice. I competed in game. Always played with a high motor. I wasn't a jerk to anybody, but I wasn't bothering along with anyone, and I went hard. I'm going to make you work if I'm on defense and you're on offense I'm going to make you work on offense. And that was a thing that we all did.
We talked about Pride, character, and desire. It's still on my state championship ring and I love it because it was something that I carried on to the University of Iowa. You know, pride, character, desire, you got to have all three of those things to be successful. Those are the things those are the characteristics of all successful programs be in high school, be in college, be a pro.
Not everybody gets to experience that and not everybody understands it. I mean, you probably heard from different guys from different teams, and you hear some things and you kind of laugh about it. Like oh, that would never happen. And you're like that would never happen at my high school because guys got too much pride and character to think like that or be like that. And it was the same for me coming up.
We knew who we were going to have a great game against, and then we kind of knew who we were going to blow out the water because we were going to give it 100%. We weren't going to stop until the whistle was blown, we were able to compete. And having 11 on offense, defense, special teams all committed to that same thing. That's the most powerful formation that you can have.
One of the strongest units that you can be part of when you have guys that have that commitment. I love talking about my experience. I love I was fortunate to watch your career and my sons, and it was those things that. Gave you your success in challenge, you, guys. It made you guys not become complacent and it's something that's been around forever. It's not new, it's not new. It's something that's been around forever.”
What have you done on and off that field that helped you stand out?
“On and off the field, and as I've gotten older and my kids have gotten older, you know I have to carry myself. In such a way to be respectful, to be respectful of myself. To whom and what I represent? And I'm in a unique position that you know, I played for the New England Patriots and now I work for them.
So, I've been in this building, or I've been in the organization for close to 40 years and there's a pride to that. And there's a sense of respect that. Wherever I go, whatever I do. I represent. A community of 3. Place that I work for, my family name, and myself.
I got to always keep that in the back of my mind. I tell that to my children I said you know you represent a community. You represent your family name, and you represent the place you're at. In Coby's case Xaverian, and in my daughters' case who is a great lacrosse player, track, and soccer player. See, you represent, so wherever you go you have all of that on your shoulders and they don't realize it until we have that conversation.
We think about it. That something goes wrong. First thing that they're going to always say is, well, it was Andre Tippett that did this and there was Mike Pine that did that, or it was Coby Tippett that did. And they talk about the relationship to whatever organization, whatever place. And you know, I learned those lessons in high school. I really did.
I was, I, you know, my high school coach, don't you disrespect us when you go to University of Iowa, you represent a lot of things when you go there and that you know I'm 61 years old now and I still believe that. I think that is one of the best ways of making people accountable and maintaining perseverance and showing character in different things like that so. But I'm always conscious of what I do and what I represent.”
What was your favorite thing about Iowa?
“My favorite part of being in Iowa was one I was part of Hayden Fry's first recruiting classes. So, we had a changing of the guard Bob Cummings had gotten fired. What would have been my freshman year and Hayden Fry is there and being part of that whole. Changing of how things used to be here that you know it's like, oh geez, why do you got to do that way? Well, there's a reason why you got to do it because the last five or six years you haven't had the success. And so, we're going to bring somebody else and they're going to do it a little bit different.
And I was able to watch it from the very beginning. And then to my senior year when everything basically blossomed, and we were able to see the fruits of our labor. It was tough. Well, for me we didn't have weight facilities in different things like that in high school. We had the I don't even think we had a universal gym. But we had things that we did, but when we got to Iowa because it was such a good program, it was in the Big 10. We had the weight room, we had to track. We had this place is to be able to get it done and I learned how to get stronger, and I learned how to condition better.
So, there were times that we all were tested mentally, physically and we would challenge, especially on offseason conditioning, offseason workouts. Building of the bond was all the things that Hayden Fry was talking about. The discipline, being accountable, pushing ourselves to certain limits. We also put teams on our schedule that we probably shouldn't have. You know, and I mean like, well, we're playing Nebraska, Oklahoma, and UCLA.
And I can remember getting blown out by Oklahoma and Nebraska two years in a row like 40 to 20 or 54 to 14. It wasn’t a lot of fun. And but you know what you were finding out? By looking to your left looking to your right. Who do you get depend on? Who who's going to compete? Who was going to try to bring it, and who really wanted to make change at the University?
And we kept those guys going on schedule. We started out with UCLA, we had Nebraska, I forget the other team and then we went into Big 10 schedule, and we ended up putting it on Nebraska. We ended up putting on UCLA and guys are kind of looking around saying wait a minute. Now you know we've been taking it on the chin from these guys over the last three or four years and here it is now. We can compete with those guys and so my senior year we pretty much. Put Iowa back on track.
We ended up having a great year that year we were Co Big 10 champs. We were Rose Bowl representatives. You know the Rose Bowl didn't turn out the way we wanted it to be. Ended up losing to Washington Huskies, who was by the way a great football team. I found myself watching the game probably two months ago from 1982 Rose Bowl and it was amazing watching those players. Against all players.
But we are part of something we were part of changing the culture at the University of Iowa. If you can think back from 1979 until 2021? There have been two head coaches at the University of Iowa Hayden Fry and Kurt Ferentz. So, I feel pretty much part of that? Culture that helps start that thing and it hasn't changed or skipped a beat since then. That's the thing that gives me so much joy at the at the college level. Things are starting to happen. You know your high school in your college and then you see the success and you feel good about yourself, and you got something going there.”
Who is your favorite player from Iowa?
“Oh my god man we had some characters man but the as far as you're talking about new players that are coming out now yea. You know it's so many guys. I mean the kid, the tight end in San Francisco, I'm drawing a blank on his name. But I played with his dad, Kittle his dad and I played at Iowa together. And so, watching him you know it's amazing to see you know here it is. This is part of our lineages. You know excelling in the National Football League. Now when I when I came out there were only two of us that made it to the NFL, it was me and Reggie Roby. And, you know, you, look at it now. There anywhere from 8 to 10 guys getting drafted now from the University of Iowa. So, when you see guys like Kittle and seeing other guys that. I've had an opportunity to play for a very long time makes you feel proud.”
How real is the “Patriot Way”?
“It's very real, it's you got to have a certain mentality to be here. If you want to get patted on the back and told that you know everything will be OK. This isn't the place, it's truly about being productive. You can be anything you want to be if you're productive. You're not asked to do a lot of things here offensively, defensively, you know you're going to get asked to do certain things on the D-line.
Mike's going to get told this is what we're looking for from an offensive standpoint. Andre, this is what we're looking from, you know, from your leadership and as a linebacker, this is what we want. And we don't want you doing anything else, and you know all the other stuff is going to be about. How you practice. You gentlemen, both know the importance of putting in practice. You just can't will yourself out on the football field without putting in a week's worth of work.
Very seldom can a guy nursing injury and then be ready to play on Saturday or Sunday. It's all about practice and it's all about understanding what terminology. All in all, it's all about the game plan and understanding everyone's role and making it happen. If you can't handle criticism or tough coaching. Again, may not be the place for you to be, because those are the things that have made. Great football players great.
It's the fact that you can withstand that, you have the ability to produce. And you love tough coaching. Everybody to a man that's been here from let's say 2000, since Bill's been here, that's been the criteria, to push each other in practice to be productive and be accountable. You can't point the finger. You can't fall into a hole if you get called out on a major assignment that you screw up on. You know you got to own it. You got to own it and you got to be able to show that I can improve. And I can get better, and I'm coachable.
What is your favorite moment as a Patriot?
“Well, I've been blessed again; I've been here from the start. And to where we are now, I've been I celebrated no Super Bowl victories. All the good things that have had happened to this organization moving out of the old stadium coming into the new stadium. But again, as I from high school to college to where I'm at now. I feel like a badge of honor that I was part of the 1st team to take the organization to Super Bowl.
Obviously, we lost to the Bears that year but the buildup to that point. Takes me back to everywhere else I've been. So, when I talk about all of these things, being accountable, being able to be a good football player guide as well with practice and pushes teammates, guy being coachable. It all started the same way at every level. Obviously, we had Ron Meyers the first head coach. Things got crazy 1984 for him, left getting fired. Then all the sudden Raymond Berry comes.
Raymond Berry comes here at the time that we’re a real good young football team. We had some guys at as they like to say now, we got some real dogs in the team. We had a great defense. We have an offense that put some points up on the board between Stanley Morgan and Urban Fryer and Tony Collins and in the backfield and between Tony Eason and we still had Rogan, we had we had we had a real strong offensive line. We had great tight ends.
But on defense, we had some dogs and their defense we, we and then we have special teams that these guys got off on turnovers. You can watch, go back and watch old special team tapes from the kickoff-to-kickoff return, punt, punt return team and you watch our guy's man. We had guys that were strong backups, number two guys there were out there making it happen on special teams. I mean scooping scores. I mean punching that ball out. I mean, they tell a guy next time you put your hands on that ball I'm going to knock it out and you hear that. And you look around like wow and all of a sudden you see it happened on the football field.
Now you know everybody's geeked up and we fired up. We're trying to make things happen. Yeah? And in 84 was really that year that we all kind of stood up decided that. Everybody is going to stay in the area. Find your condo, whatever you got to do. Stay at somebody's house. Sleep on somebody's couch. So, but we all need to be around here in the offseason.
And then when we into the 85 season. Man, we were prime. We were really ready to kind of set it off. We didn't know how far we were going to go. But people were going to have a hard time playing against us, and 85 is a magical season. I think we still hold the record for being a wild card team, winning all our games on the road we played The Jets, we played the Raiders and then we ended up seeing the Miami Dolphins again for the third time that season. End up playing them down there, in Miami in the AFC Championship and you know I was going to squish the fish.
We made it to the Super Bowl. We made it to the Super Bowl again first time, first being part of that. Obviously, I wish I we would've won. I wouldn't have to take so much junk from my Chicago Bear friends. I see him all the time, you know so. But I've learned to live with that, and I think the team has done well enough and I own all the Super Bowl rings, so I give guys a hard time about different things all the time.
Because every now and then I said don't make me go home and get mine. I got mine too, so it's been it's been a lot of fun being part about being a part of that. Letting people know that even though we have greatness we've seen greatness here for the last 20 years or so. There was a lot more greatness that was here before all of that and there were guys that. People to this day would love to have that play back in the 60s and the 70s in the 80s that they would actually absolutely love the grab a guy from here and there and put on a team now.”
What's the feeling like being inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
“It's as most of us know, getting into Pro Football Hall of Fame is one of the highest hundreds that you can get as a football player no matter what. Dead or alive. As you know, we just had a big enshrinement this past Saturday for all the Hall of Fame is that are no longer with us, it was nine of them I believe. And you know, I know a lot of the voters and guys that are on the committee. And I got some text messages and they said, you know, it's a shame that. It took so long for a guy like Duke Slater to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
People have no idea of his pedigree and in the production and the things that he did both on and off the field and as an academia, he became a judge. So here it is he's a great football player. And then this guy goes back to school and finish it up, becomes a Circuit Court judge. Obviously is a University of Iowa guy also. So, here's a guy back in the 40s at no one ever heard of so? So much is weighed on. Well, he wasn't on a Super Bowl team, you know. Then you, you hear a lot of crazy things that they've gone on and discussions.
But when you have someone that's representing you and fighting for you, it's an amazing thing. It's amazing journey, it's amazing ride. When I got in, someone said man, it's about time they finally let you know and I said, you know it's not. That it's about time I want to tell you that it was well worth the wait. I don't take it lightly. I don't disrespect it. The Hall of Fame means that just like I feel about representing my community and place I work for and where I come from, my family name. I also now got added responsibility as a Pro Football Hall of Fame that I got to maintain a certain thing.
Being a certain it about myself when I walk into a room you know, I hope you know it's just you know you. You represent other people now I've gotten more people, more luggage. Now that I got to care about and look out for. And you know, we try to share that with new guys when they come into the Hall of Fame that you know. It isn't just you anymore, you got new teammates. You know, and we all have the same address. And you know, George Halas Drive is where the Pro Football Hall of Fame is located, and we tell guys.
When it's all said and done, that's going to be our final resting place, you know. And it's just the pride. Of having that that Pro Football Hall of Fame under my name. I know what kind of player I was. I know the people that I've played against an it's to me, it's still. It's just an honor to be part of that to be named with so many great guys that as a young kid I looked up to. Now there are other people that are there that are saying the same things about me so it it's an honor it's going to be that way for as long as I live.”
How has it been for you as a football parent to see your kid play the game?
“It's been such an awesome experience, Mike. I mean, I didn't have a dad. Growing up to kind of be there for me and you know, it was pretty much my mom was the only cheerleader, and you know my siblings too. For me to have that opportunity one be Coby's Pop Warner coach from age 7 until he turns 13-14 and then he goes on the high school. I was there every step of the way. It was a great opportunity for me because I got the coach, not just him, but his teammates.
In till this day and you probably know this as a QB coach and you and your dad running your business is nothing cooler than being walking around town and hear someone yell out. Hey coach. Now setting yeah, yeah, your neck flinches, ears perk up, and you like who's calling me, you know, and you look around. And it's someone that you coached and. I had an opportunity to Care and shape their young lives for long time.
A lot of these guys went on playing at Sharon High School and my son went on to Xaverian how I was able to share. Everything that I had as a former player and you know it was funny. I didn't baby him up to a certain point, but I took it easy on him until he got until about the 7th and 8th grade and I thought I could ratchet it up a little bit and I did. I got a little bit more boisterous with them. I got a little bit more demanding with them and they rose to the challenge because they trusted me.
And the same thing with my son. He and I had a trust and a bond. Because we were together a long time and you know, we talk football all the time and then for him to then go on to sharing Xaverian to play. It was such. A joy for me to sit up in the stands and watch you guys do your thing and then I became a cheerleader. I became the biggest cheerleader out there and it was just a lot of fun.
I'm not saying I taught him everything he knows, but I think I gave him a foundation. To understand what's expected as a football player and he always knew how to carry himself, you knew. We hear it all the time. You score, act like you've been there before. I see you, if I ever see you doing these things that people are doing so you and I can have a conversation because it just doesn't think it's needed. And I watched him score the first time and I saw him take the ball and give it to the ref, but that's what I'm talking about is you don't need to do all that other stuff.
We talked competition, we talked. Competing in and producing, I said you can complain to me about a lot of things, but if you don't work hard and go out there and give yourself an opportunity to give you a team an opportunity. Then we have nothing to talk about and you know, we, we talked tough talk. I talked tough talk and realistic things and so they don't want you ever to think that.
You're better than what you are and, but I don't want you to seem like you're limited, and I can remember the very first time when he went to Xaverian, and he looked like a little boy and. You know someone said to me. You know he looks like I said, hey. He looks like a lot of things, he said, but I'm going to tell you something. I said this kid loves the game. I said he loves that football like you dream about, I said he's going to compete. I said you got to find a place where you can put him, and I guarantee you will not.”