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Poole is deep, talented

Patriot's spirit is undeniable on and off field

FOXBOROUGH -- It was late one Sunday afternoon in the 1980s as the Red Sox team bus was heading toward the airport after a tough loss and terrible series in Detroit. One player took out the Bible and started discussing a passage with a teammate when the manager looked over and said with a scowl, "That's why we don't win any games."

And it wasn't just the belief of the manager. It was a belief that existed in the sports community for a long time. There were managers and coaches who did their Sunday best to stay away from spiritual and religious players, feeling those players weren't focused enough on the field.

It filtered to the media as well.

When players begin to bring up "the Lord," the interview usually ends, the sound bite is never heard, and the reference to "the Lord" is never written.

When you speak to cornerback Tyrone Poole, arguably one of the most consistent and productive Patriots, his spirituality is evident and to conduct an interview without mentioning this would be to depict the veteran inaccurately.

"I've always been in the church," said Poole, who grew up outside of Atlanta. "I was always religious. There are a lot of people who are religious but they're not spiritual. You understand the concept but you don't know what it means. When you become spiritual, you know what it means. Having faith means reading the word and understanding the word. It's not like when you read the Bible you read a passage and you try and apply the passage to everything in the world, which you can't do. You have to read and get a true understanding. That's why I read books that show God's warmth. He wants his children to be successful."

Poole notices the media running for cover when he brings up his faith. He says he will never change who he is or what he says just because people don't want to hear about it.

"A lot of people are living with the world mentality," Poole said. "The world tells reporters if you write about religious things, you're not gonna read it. The world is fixed on ratings, how many papers you sell.

"A spiritual person, no matter what, is not going to let another person dictate what he does. Like if someone asks me, `Hey, Tyrone, you're going up against this real tall receiver, do you think you're going to be able to cover him?' I don't think like that. In the Bible there's David and Goliath. David was small, Goliath was huge. Because I know I have a stronger faith and a stronger spirit, my Lord and savior Jesus Christ tells me I can accomplish all things. Even certain religious leaders let outside people influence them and their decision-making instead of staying the course on what the Lord has set forth."

What Poole wants to make known is that his life is dictated by the Lord. He wants everyone to know his family is most important to him, which is why he quit football after training camp with the Broncos prior to the 2001 season when he had left Indianapolis as a free agent. He lives in Atlanta, and at the time, the family couldn't move to Denver. The following season, Poole played 16 games for the Broncos, was not re-signed, and inked a four-year deal with a $1.8 million signing bonus with the Patriots.

Again, he had to reconsider.

He did not take part in the team's workout program, which cost him $25,000 of his signing bonus. In the eyes of the coaching staff, he was well behind the other defensive backs when training camp began and often found himself playing late in exhibition games, behind rookies Eugene Wilson and Asante Samuel. He again had to think of his two small children and his wife, Jennifer, who also has a business career.

"The Lord works things out for his children," Poole said. "I didn't want to be away from my family. It happened to where my wife said, `OK, I'll set aside all the dreams and desires I want right now to come up so we'll be a family.' That's why it worked out."

He wanted it that way because he wants to be a positive force in his children's lives. He grew up in a religious family and he felt he had the best upbringing imaginable, a household full of love, direction, and nurturing. Once he compared that with what he saw around him, kids his age in a state of confusion and duress, he vowed that would never happen to his children.

"It all starts in the home," said Poole, the only first-round pick out of Fort Valley (Ga.) State. "I had excellent parents. A lot of kids in my neighborhood grew up in single-parent homes, or if they did come from some two-parent home, there was some sort of turmoil where the mother and the father may not know what's right and what's wrong. The kids are going to be a product of their environment. That's what I'm doing with my kids. I'm making sure they have a strong foundation so when they do grow up, they will have a foundation on decision-making. I can't be there with them the instant they're making the decision, but I can make sure they have a strong foundation to make that decision. Just like I was given from my parents."

He feels he has touched the lives of others on and off the football field.

One of the people he's helped discover his faith is Rodney Harrison, his locker neighbor.

"When I came here, Rodney was just getting into his faith, and other guys on this team who are God-fearing guys. Rodney was just beginning to walk in his faith. Now I'm here beside his locker, we're able to talk and we're able to uplift each other. I mean, we're all going to have problems. Just because I'm a spiritual guy doesn't mean that all my days are going to be sunshine.

"It is said in the Bible that `my star is going to last forever' as long as I continue to believe. I can't tell you I've had an influence on this person or that person, but I know the most important people I can have an influence on is my children. They have their whole life in front of them. They're going to be tempted. They're not going to be tempted exactly with the same things I was but if I can teach them how I got over it, how the Lord gave me strength, then maybe they can deal with the trials and tribulations of everyday life. Everyone falls into a pothole. The important thing is you stay the course."

You might not find a happier Patriot. As he says, he's had to deal with dilemmas such as his family situation and how it relates to football. But he says he's been happy throughout his career -- as the 22d pick in the first round of the 1995 draft in Carolina (just ahead of Ty Law, taken a pick later by the Patriots) -- whether it be in Indianapolis, Denver, or New England.

"Every team has its good points and bad points," said Poole. "There are good points that are exciting. You can't say which one is the best. They're all good organizations. One thing about me, every place I've been, I know I could go back."

Clearly, football is important to Poole, but there are other things on his priority list -- his family and his spirituality. And while it might be frustrating to him that few will write or broadcast his true portrait, he said, "I'm not worried about getting angry. Through him, I received a blessed family, a blessed career, and a fruitful life. The man I praise every day is a great Lord, a great savior."

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