BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Nate Solder doesn’t take playing in the Super Bowl for granted, even though this will be the New England left tackle’s fourth such appearance in seven seasons.
A first-round draft choice in 2011 from Colorado, the 6-foot-8, 325-pound Solder has started 95 regular-season games and another 15 in the postseason.
The Patriots have been in the AFC championship game every year he has been there, although Solder didn’t play in the postseason following the 2015 season due to a biceps injury. Now the Patriots will face the Eagles on Sunday in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
“It’s all I know,” Solder said about being in these postseason games with so much at stake.
In the euphoria of a career filled with winning, Solder and his wife Lexi have gone through tremendous personal hardship.
The couple’s son Hudson, who is 2 1/2 years old, was diagnosed with kidney cancer at the age of three months.
Solder has often been commended for his strength through these difficult times, but he disputes that notion.
“I don’t think I have been that strong through any of it,” he said during Tuesday’s Super Bowl LII media session at the Mall of America. “I have been scared, timid, weak, very selfish, these are some of the qualities I have, and I think God has carried us through it all … ”
Solder remains optimistic about his son’s condition.
“Everything is going really well, “Solder said. “He is still on chemotherapy and that is progressing the way they have hoped.”
Solder said his son, and daughter Charlie, will be in Minnesota for the Super Bowl festivities but won’t attend the game, staying instead with their grandparents.
This is not the first time Solder has had to deal with cancer. In April 2014, he was diagnosed and treated for testicular cancer. Solder didn’t miss a game in the 2014 season, which culminated with the Patriots winning the Super Bowl over Seattle.
He is a man of great faith and as the earlier comment indicates, he credits that for getting him through the trying situations.
“There were times we were on our knees praying, crying, and it was God who carried us through those things,” he said.
He said his son’s situation has put so many things in perspective.
“It has reoriented my priorities, with my family being right at the top of things,” he said. “I think it does put things in perspective, but you don’t not appreciate what you have and the opportunities you are given, and I am so thankful for everything.”
While Solder says he has been weak, his teammates see him as a pillar of strength.
“I think he has inspired this team in so many ways, not just the team but guys around the league and throughout the world,” Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks said. “What he is going through and the strength that he shows, that is a true testimony in trusting God, and through his life and through his family. I have a ton of respect for Nate.”
And Solder says his extended family of the Patriots has been a major help through all his trials.
“I have excellent teammates,” he said. “Those guys have wrapped their arms around me and help me through this stuff and I am so thankful to them and the coaches and everybody who has helped me.”
Solder, 29, can be a free agent after this season, but he says that is the furthest thing from his mind. He is headed to another Super Bowl and understands how difficult it is to get there.
So he continues to count his blessings and lives for the moment, knowing nothing else is guaranteed.