FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — This is where the magic happens, here in the New England Patriots locker room.
John Duke Logan will be walking through as the players are taping up their ankles or putting on pads and one of them — most often backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett — will shout at him, "What do you have for me today?" Logan reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a deck of cards, and soon a crowd is gathered around.
"I saw him in there a couple of weeks ago and he did some amazing things," quarterback Tom Brady said. "I think everyone is blown away by a little magic."
As Brady spoke at his weekly news conference, Logan was in the back of the media workroom at Gillette Stadium, shooting video for his actual job as digital content associate for the Patriots website. But it's as a sort of official team magician that he has attracted a following among the AFC champions, who will be playing the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
"Anytime you can kind of take your mind off of football when you're in the locker room, it's a nice little break from the reality of what we do every day," fullback James Develin said. "It just keeps things light and it's fun to come to work every day."
A 23-year-old native of nearby Hanover, Massachusetts, Logan was 12 when he posted a trick on YouTube and attracted the attention of a talent manager. (When the caller tried pitch some gigs, Logan told him, "I'll have to ask my mom.") By the time he graduated with two majors (entrepreneurship, marketing) and a minor (communications) from Bryant College in Rhode Island, where the Patriots used to train, Logan had already written two books about using the principles of magic as a tool to accomplish one's life goals.
One of his mantras: "Magic isn't about tricking people, it's about proving to people that impossible is just a word."
A longtime Patriots fan, Logan applied for a job in the team's digital department. During the interview, his future boss proposed the idea that became the "Magic Moments" section on the website .
Each week this season, he produced a video performing a magic trick with a player or group of cheerleaders. Tailoring the routines to the specific player, he used Jamaican songs with Jamaica native Patrick Chung ; with Malcom Butler, whose interception clinched New England's last Super Bowl win, the trick was called "A Perfect Catch" and was also timed to appear during the NFL's breast cancer awareness month.
But Logan quickly became a celebrity among celebrities. He has a few rules in the locker room: He won't approach players in the locker room, but he will perform a trick if requested.
"I realize they have a job to do. The last thing I want is to be a distraction to them," he said. "Jacoby wanted to see a trick this week and last week, too, and I said, 'Jacoby, I want you to focus on the game.'"
As a part-time Patriots employee, Logan didn't travel with the team to Houston; instead, he was planning to head down midweek to perform at Guy Fieri's tailgate party. In an interview near the stadium during Super Bowl week, Logan reached into the pocket of his Patriots jacket and pulled out a deck of cards. ("I always travel with a deck of cards," he said. "You never know what's going to happen.")
First, he used Siri on his iPhone to correctly guess a reporter's card (the three of diamonds) — a version of the trick he recorded with Chung for the website. Other tricks made cards move from one end of the deck to another, or seem to change their spots in his hands.
Watching such accomplished athletes dissolve in befuddlement is the real feat, Logan said.
"Magic isn't the trick. It's what happens after the trick," he said. "I thought Devin McCourty was this big, tough guy — which he is. But when you do magic, it brings them back to their childhood."
As a New England high school football player who has done magic half his life, Logan has apparently apparated into his dream job. There's only one problem: Being the unofficial magician for an organization that has twice been convicted by the NFL of trickery makes some out-of-towners even more suspicious.
"People don't like the Patriots. They hate them. It's kind of New England against the world," Logan said. "I was afraid people would say, 'Oh, it's another way they're cheating.'"
But, he insists, there's no hocus-pocus that the rest of the league needs to worry about.
"I'm not sure if Bill Belichick — Coach Belichick — knows that I do magic," Logan said. "He says: 'You always focus on football.' And even if he does know who I am, that's what I want him to continue doing: I want him to focus on football, and going all the way."
If they do, don't expect Logan to take any credit.
"Belichick is the real magician. Belichick and Brady," he said, breaking into a wry smile like so many of his willing victims. "I don't even know how they do it every year."
AP Sports Writers Kyle Hightower and Teresa Walker contributed to this story from Houston.
For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL