FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — New England Patriots defensive end Lawrence Guy is familiar with trials on the football field.
During his seven-year NFL career, the 27-year-old bounced around four other teams before landing in New England as a free agent this offseason.
But his football journey has also intersected with a pair of life-altering tragedies.
Last year Guy was is his second full season with the Baltimore Ravens when he and his wife lost a baby to a miscarriage during the fifth month of pregnancy. Then, last month he was blindsided again by news that his hometown of Las Vegas was the site of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
On Sunday, Guy will honor the 59 killed and more than 500 injured in the Vegas attack during the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats initiative. He’s also wearing a cleat for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep , an organization that helped him and his wife heal from the loss of their unborn child.
Guy is one of 14 Patriots who will be wearing specialized cleats in the second year of the NFL-wide event, aimed at highlighting the various organizations players want to bring awareness to. After the games, fans can bid on the one-of-a-kind cleats, with all proceeds going back to players’ various charities.
Guy said the Vegas shooting still haunts him.
“It hit home. I had family at the concert. I had family that were staying at the hotel that week,” he said. “It just hurts. … You think about the families that are there enjoying themselves that got hit with the horrible news that night or that morning. It’s gonna constantly affect me, and affect the families that were involved in that.”
The centerpiece of Guy’s Las Vegas cleat is a reimagined representation of the city’s iconic red, white and blue “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.
In the depiction Guy will be wearing on his right foot, “Welcome” has been replaced by “Unity.” The rest of the sign reads: “Forever Vegas Strong.” At the bottom is “10-1-17,” the date of the shooting.
The left cleat he will be wearing is just as meaningful.
Guy and his wife, Andrea, had been married less than a year when she became pregnant. Guy was in the middle of offseason workouts when she had just passed the five-month mark. That’s when she suffered a miscarriage.
“We didn’t know about the organization at that time — we kept it silent. We were dealing with it our own way at home,” he recalled. “It’s one of those stigmas that you want to keep to yourself. You don’t want to share.”
Connecting with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep helped them see that they weren’t alone and that there was an outlet to help them cope. Guy and his wife have since gotten matching wrist tattoos of angel wings and halo for the daughter they named Estelle.
“There are resources out there to help you heal from that process,” Guy said.
As he trudges forward off the field, Guy is also making the most of his latest opportunity on it. Since signing a four-year $13.4 million deal this offseason, Guy has been one of the most consistent players on New England’s battered defensive line.
He’s started 10 of 11 games this season, making 21 tackles.
Coach Bill Belichick praised Guy after the Patriots’ win over Miami. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said he’s improved throughout the season.
“He’s got great energy about him,” Patricia said. “He’s smart, he learns, he studies the game, he’s got a lot of insight, too, from a player that’s been able to do this for a couple years.”
It’s why Guy said he’s never allowed himself to be too discouraged despite his multiple stops around the league.
“Never that. You can’t give up on your dream,” he said. “There’s ups and downs in this business. … I’m not that person that’s gonna give up. I put my mind to it and said I’m gonna continue to fight for what I believe in.”
It’s also why Guy said he wouldn’t change anything about his personal journey — both tragedies and triumphs.
“The person I am today is because of what I went through. I’d have been a whole different person if I didn’t go through it,” he said. “That’s one of those questions ‘Can you change things in your life that made you who you are?’ You can’t. Because you don’t know who you are until certain things happen. Things happened that made me who I am today and I’m grateful that I am the person I am.”