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NFL Hall of Famer and Patriot linebacking legend Andre Tippett became a star by hitting quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. Hitting a golf ball did not take center stage until he was finished with those important chores.

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“When I got to the NFL, I really had no idea about golf,” says Tippett, who set the NFL record for most sacks over a two-year period with 35 in 1984 and 1985. “When I was in high school, we used to laugh at the guys who swung a golf club. We told them they should be playing football. I actually took a golf class at Iowa, and then started fooling around with the game a bit more.”

Tippett ‘s 12-year NFL career, 1982-93 all with the Patriots, was a model of consistency. In 1985, he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the AFC champion Pats. He is still the only Patriot to garner 100 sacks over a career. Tippett was voted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 1999 and enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.

Today, the Birmingham, AL native serves as the team’s Executive Director of Community Affairs, and golf has become a huge part of his life.

“After I retired, I really started to work on my game to get it up to snuff,” explains Tippett, a 1982 second round draft pick out of Iowa. “I really started to love the game around 1994. A lot of business gets done on the golf course. I started to put a lot of energy into the game and work hard at it. I wanted to be respectful when I got on the course.”

Tippett applied the mental aspects of his football prowess to golf. He also tapped into some great golfing minds. “My high school football coach used to tell me that I was a good listener and learner. I implemented a process to learn golf, starting from the short game out. I learned to chip and putt.

“(PGA pro) Brad Faxon gave me a lot of tips over the years. He was one of the best PGA putters of all time. I struggled with it at times and spent a lot of time on the range learning the lessons of mechanics.”

The five-time Pro Bowler is a sixth-degree black belt in Uechi-ryu karate. His martial arts acumen aided the golf learning process. “I think mostly in the areas of stance, hands, and shoulders,” relates Tippett. “Mostly, I tried to play with guys who were better than I was. They would look at me funny if I lost a ball. It was a humbling experience. These days, I never brag when I hit a good shot because I know the golf gods can turn on you at any moment.”

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Supernatural powers aside, the 54 year-old Tippett reduces the game to its purest state. “It comes down to playing smart. In football, you can’t jump offsides, take a stupid penalty, or a late hit with the game on the line. It really has nothing to do with strength and everything to do with mechanics. You have to load up, stay behind the ball, and really work on your timing. To me, that is everything.”

A member at Spring Valley and a huge fan of Pinehills, Tippett’s golf bucket list includes playing in Scotland, Augusta, and Pebble Beach. His goals remain quite personal. “I always try to beat my last score,” he relates. “I’ve played with some great golfing athletes like Jim Rice and Bob Montgomery.

“Tom Brady has one of the smoothest swings you ever saw. I would love to get out on the course with him again soon. Vince Wilfork loves golf even more than I do, and is fun to play with and really competitive.”

The ferocious competitor in Tippett clearly has not disappeared, and he seeks out like-minded souls on the links. “I’ve played with some people, and others would ask, ‘Why do you play with such an (expletive deleted),” jokes Tippett. “But I like competitive people. I want to play with people I’d go down an alley with, people who can play with the money on the line.

“There are guys I know I can depend on to hit that 2-foot putt with everything on the line, and other guys I know will choke. You can know someone for 20 years and then play golf with them and find out so much more about them. It really exposes patience, honesty, dedication, and work ethic.”

John Molori is the co-author of “The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball’s Prized Players.” Follow on Facebook at John Molori, Twitter @MoloriMedia. Email molorimedia@aol.com

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