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Pastoral Center employee recalls days as Patriots team security head

Pastoral Center head of security Frank Mendes is pictured with the Lombardi Trophy following the Patriot's Super Bowl XXXVI victory in 2001. Mendes was the head of team security for the Patriots from 1990 to 2003. Pilot photo/courtesy Frank Mendes

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BRAINTREE -- Frank Mendes places a three-ring binder on the table and starts to flip through the pages. It's thick and he turns the pages carefully, but even so he goes through the binder quickly, like it's something he's paged through hundreds of times.

Photos and newspaper clippings make up almost each page, and he lists the people in the photos: Ben Coates, Curtis Martin, Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi, Drew Bledsoe, Bill Parcells, Robert Kraft, Pete Carol -- they're almost all former members of the New England Patriots, and they're almost all standing next to Mendes in the photos.

To Mendes, the binder isn't a fan book, or a collector's album. To Mendes, the binder is a collection of memories, of friends, representing his 13 years as the director of Team Security for the Patriots.

Today, he's the director of Building Services for the Pastoral Center, the Archdiocese of Boston's Braintree headquarters.

Mendes' career in security started decades ago, when he was a Massachusetts state trooper. Speaking to The Pilot Jan. 29, he said he was stationed mostly in Foxborough, near the old Foxboro Stadium, the predecessor of Gillette Stadium which opened in 2002.

He worked numerous details at the stadium, first with traffic, then at the players' gate, and then helping to escort visiting teams.

After years of details, a position for director of Team Security opened up with the Patriots. "Out of the clear blue," Mendes said, they asked him if he wanted the job.

"They all knew me, because I had been around there so many years," he said. "So, of course I said yes."

That was in 1990, and Mendes had already had 20 years of experience as a state trooper. For the next 10 years, until 2000, he said he continued to work as a state trooper in addition to being director of Team Security. To put it bluntly, "it was hectic," he said.

During the season, Mendes would travel with the team, doing "bed checks at the hotel, basically just team security. Some might call it babysitting," he said, laughing.

Mendes went to two Super Bowls with the team -- Super Bowl XXXI, during the 1996 season, and Super Bowl XXXVI, during the 2001 season.

The Patriots lost the first and won the second, but both, for Mendes, were incredibly hectic.

"You're keeping the team on one floor, or try to keep them on one floor of a hotel, trying to keep people off of that floor," he said.

"They weren't allowed to have friends, wives; nobody went on the players' floor. If they wanted to meet them, they met them in the lobby or on another part of the hotel. No one without credentials was allowed on the players' floor," he continued.

That goes on for a whole week, he said. During that time, the team has practice, press conferences, and interviews. "Everything's timed."

During the two Super Bowls he was with the team, on the night before the big game, the team "changed hotels, tried to eliminate any distractions," he said. "Actually, people didn't really know where we went. I imagine most people thought we were still there."

After both Super Bowls, the team held a party, even after the loss of Super Bowl XXXI. But, the party had already been planned and paid for, so it went on. People there "were not that happy," he said.

Of course, that was different after the win against the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. Everyone was tired, he said, and for him, the party seemed to go on "forever," but everyone was happy, too. They all had to fly back to Massachusetts the morning after the game and during the drive from Logan Airport in Boston to Foxboro, "every single bridge... was full of people."

"Cars along the breakdown lane, people standing outside, almost for the whole route. It was really, really amazing," said Mendes. "I've never seen such a celebration by the fans. It still boggles my mind to think of it."

Mendes left the franchise in 2003, but he said he keeps up some of his connections with former players and coaches, saying he recently saw former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

He has the binder of photos and memories he made, and he has another memento, too -- a Super Bowl XXXVI ring.

Mendes said he wears it most days, because he's "proud to have it." It's essentially the same ring the players received, he said, but instead of having a player number of the side, his says "Staff."

People "always" comment on it, he said, and most of the time they ask him where he got it.

"Cracker Jacks," is his standard answer.

He's excited about Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4, when the Patriots will play the Philadelphia Eagles in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He keeps up with the games, he said, and actually prefers to watch them alone, rather than at a party or gathering, so he can concentrate fully on the game.

When asked if he has any thoughts about how the game will go, Mendes simply said with games like these, "You gotta have a little bit of luck, and you can't make mistakes."

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