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Former Patriots offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi remains rock solid

06.07.12 at 12:01 am ET

When he played for the Patriots from 2000 through 2004, offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi was accorded as the toughest guy in the locker room. The offensive lineman started at left guard for all three of New England’€™s Super Bowl teams, and left a legacy of consistency and durability that few have matched.

He’€™s kept that same sort of resolve in the next phase of his life as well. In addition to his work as a part-time strength and conditioning coach with the Patriots, Andruzzi — a cancer survivor himself — heads up the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which is geared toward providing financial assistance for patients and their families as well as funding pediatric brain cancer research

Andruzzi, who underwent his own battle with non-Hodgkin’€™s lymphoma five years ago (he’€™s now in remission), said he can identify with the families who are going through the trauma that comes along with fighting cancer.

‘€œWe know what they’€™re going through,’€ Andruzzi said. ‘€œI was in the hospital, and I felt those walls closing in around me. It was tough. Thankfully, I got paid very well over the course of my career, so we could take care of the bills. But others aren’€™t as fortunate.

‘€œPeople have mortgages and rent and utility bills that sit at home when they are in the hospital. Those bills don’€™t have anything to do with medical bills, but they still need to get paid as much as the other bills.’€

One of Andruzzi’€™s major fundraisers is right around the corner, as he will be hosting the fourth annual Joe Andruzzi and Friends golf tournament, set for June 18 at the Granite Links Golf Club in Quincy. Tight end Rob Gronkowski and linebacker Rob Ninkovich are listed as special guests hosts for the event, which will include a round of golf, a helicopter ball drop and a live auction with all sorts of memorabilia. (For more on the event, as well as a look at the work the Andruzzi foundation is doing, click here.)

For Andruzzi, seeing so many current and former Patriots come up to help raise money for such a worthy cause is gratifying.

‘€œIt’€™s great being a part of a great organization, from Mr. Kraft down to his sons and coach Belichick and the staff, and I truly believe that this organization wouldn’€™t be where it is today without the alumni,’€ he said. ‘€œAnd to bring guys like that back, important alumni, it’€™s very inspiring, especially for something like this. To see the alumni and the current players coming together is very rewarding.’€

‘€œIt’€™s just a great group of guys who want to come out and help with the foundation,’€ he added. ‘€œIt’€™s going to be a great time, and I appreciate all of them coming out and being a part of the event.’€

Andruzzi’€™s foundation work is just one part of his post-playing career. The Southern Connecticut State product — who also played for the Packers and Browns over the course of his career — is working as a part-time strength and conditioning coach with the Patriots. In the recent round of OTAs, he’€™s been a familiar presence on the field with the coaching staff and players.

Andruzzi, who was initially invited back a few years ago when Mike Woicik was in charge of strength and conditioning, has continued to work with current S&C coach Harold Nash. He said has no problem pushing players like center Dan Koppen, who he used to line up with.

‘€œKoppen, man, Koppen was my redheaded stepchild in 2003 and 2004,’€ he said with a laugh. ‘€œAll kidding aside, the transition has gone pretty well for me. I knew things were going to be OK when I walked in the door and the players welcomed me with open arms. To be there and to work with the players — I mostly work with the big guys — is great. To show these guys that this program helped my career immensely is an important thing. It prolonged my career by a couple of years, at least.

‘€œI try and help everyone understand that no matter who you are, you are going to be asked to help this team. These sessions, to be ready for training camp and the long, grueling season, it all starts in the weight room. Myself, I’€™ve always been a weight-room guy. In college, we didn’€™t have a strength and conditioning coach. I had to do it myself. But the system in place here, first under coach Woicik and now with coach Nash, this system works. It’€™s great to be a part of it.’€

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