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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks on against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second half of their pre-season NFL football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts August 11, 2011. In Myra Krafts memory, Brady and every player and coach is wearing a patch with her initials on it in recognition of her lifelong contributions to the local and global community and her influence on the charitable mission of the entire Patriots organization. REUTERS/Adam Hunger

Adam Hunger/Reuters

New England Patriots defensive end Vince Wilfork believes Myra Kraft will have the best seat in the house come Sunday.

All week, the Patriots have spoken emotionally about the wife of Patriots owner Robert Kraft – a woman who was dear to them before she died of cancer last July at 68. The Pats have dedicated their NFL season to her, wearing "MHK" patches sewn on their jerseys, right above their hearts.

"She cared less about who you are as a football player … she was more [about]who you are as a person," Wilfork said this week, as his team prepared to face the New York Giants on Sunday in the Super Bowl. "She just had a big, big heart for being such a small woman."

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The players called Myra "Mamma," and some of them would kiss her ritualistically on game day. She had never watched a football game before they bought the Patriots in 1994, her husband said, opting to do crossword puzzles and watch "chick flicks" while her season-ticket-holding husband would go to games.

"She only started learning about the game when we bought the team – she figured she should pay attention," 70-year-old Robert Kraft said this week. "She understood how strategic it is, whether it's philanthropy, business, or an NFL team, how you develop and build an organization where you put team first and people aren't looking for accolades but are just trying to do good deeds."

She taught the players about hands-on philanthropy as she worked with dozens of charities. The Krafts are devoted to helping Israel and often took players to the Holy Land, including quarterback Tom Brady.

"She is a woman who has been smiling down on us over the course of this season," Brady said. "Hopefully, we can go out and get a win for him. I think it would make this year very special for [Kraft]and special for his family."

Kraft sat by his wife's bedside every day during her months-long battle with the disease.

"I never understood what the word heartbroken meant," Kraft said. "Then, this horrible cancer came and wrecked my life."

After the Patriots clinched a playoff bye, the players gave Kraft an oil panting of his wife, which brought him to tears. It now hangs in the team locker room.

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"It's been a tough year. Having this team has been a saviour for me."

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About the Author
Sports reporter

Based in Toronto, Rachel Brady writes on a number of sports for The Globe and Mail, including football, tennis and women's hockey. More

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