FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – As Anne Noland (Queen Anne to her friends, which is warmly apropos) is hosting a tour of the New England Patriots well-appointed executive suite, she whispers, “Mr. Kraft is in a meeting, but I think he might be able to take a break and come out and visit with your friends.”
That would be Robert Kraft, the ultra-successful and genial owner of one of the most successful NFL franchises in history. He is a man with a classic “people” touch, finding time for employees like Anne Noland and not just the man who wears No. 12, the one named Brady, who is trying to corner the market for quarterbacks with excessive NFL championship jewelry. “Thank you for sending some very fine football players our way,” Kraft said as he maneuvered behind the lineup of five Vince Lombardi trophies for a photo op.
Anne stood aside, smiling generously, proud to be a host for friends from home and proud to be a well-connected member of the Patriots staff. Writing about the owner and other Patriot luminaries is a daily ritual for this University of Georgia graduate, who is the only female graduate of UGA with a Super Bowl ring.
That came when she, fresh out of Georgia, latched onto an internship with the Broncos when Denver won its last Super Bowl, over the Panthers, 24-10 in 2016.
Soon, Queen Anne was moving on to an opportunity with the Tennessee Titians, but a funny thing happened on the way to Memphis. Stacey James, Vice President of Public Relations interviewed Anne for a position with New England. However, she had reached commitment status with the Titans and felt she could not opt out. Stacey lamented in his notes from the interview, “one who got away.”
There would be a second opportunity. When that next option came about, the keen Patriot PR maestro moved post haste to make sure that he made an adroit move in bringing Anne to Foxborough.
This Georgia girl makes friends easily and lets her performance do the talking. She has a natural gift as a writer and her PR instincts will always move her to the head of the class. She is loyal, grateful, and motivated to make the day of her associates and superiors—not currying favor, but simply doing her job to the best of her ability.
Anne is a Claude Felton disciple and a Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication graduate. There are literally dozens of Felton protégé’s from the UGA Sports Communications office out there making a name for themselves, a reminder that quiet and selfless leadership can cause one to become a trailblazer. Claude has always had a canny ability to hire good people who are selfless and harmonious and who bring credit and warm regard to the University of Georgia. They are competent, caring, and consequential.
They are a devoted mutual admiration society with an umbilical-like attachment to one who has had such an impactful influence on their lives and careers.
For example, Alex Zerkel, who is Football Communications Manager of the National Football League, found his way to Boston on a recent weekend to visit Anne and joined our group for dinner. His title reflects high-level status with the NFL, and Alex, like Anne, sings the praises of Claude Felton and the University of Georgia.
There is another point of pride here—all of Claude’s kids, and the list is imposing, are journalism graduates, which means that the Dean of Grady College, Charles Davis, can also take a bow.
As I walked out of the field at Gillette Stadium, there were flashbacks to the Patriot-Dawgs of yesteryear—Marion Campbell, the first line coach when the team was a member of the old American Football League. Then came an impressive list which included Andy Johnson, Patrick Pass, Richard Seymour, Robert Edwards, David Andrews, and Malcolm Mitchell. Waiting in the wings are Sonny Michel, Isaiah Wynn, and John Atkins.
And there to chronicle the past and the future is a queen, Anne Noland, more than likely to be blessed with another Super Bowl ring.