With his historic sixth Super Bowl victory behind him, New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick stands with a record of success that will make his father’s fellow Annapolis Midshipmen proud.
With the distinction of being the winningest Super Bowl Head Coach in NFL history, he and his teammates speak with a singular team focus, humility, and intensity that belies many of the world’s most successful leaders in sports: “The most important thing for me is for our team to be able to hold that Lombardi Trophy and say that we were champions. It took everybody. It took the entire team and organization to put forth a superior and supreme effort to achieve that, and that’s really what it’s about. It’s about how all of us came together and kind of pulled our weight so the team could achieve its goals. It’s what we’re able to accomplish as a team.”
Aside from a stellar 2019 record, he totes six Super Bowl rings since 2002 and brings a Yankee-esque dynasty to football. No doubt it rubbed off from his late father. For 33 years Steve Belichick, Navy veteran of Normandy and Okinawa, seemed to have touched success wherever he went. He was an advance scout for the Naval Academy, an aide who wrote Heisman-winning game plans for Joe Bellino and Roger Staubach. He was golf buddies with the legendary NFL Head Coach Paul Brown. And he even played fullback with the Detroit Lions for a year, where he was a teammate of Byron "Whizzer" White, who went on to become a Supreme Court Justice.
And young Bill loved hist military upbringing. He was only 6 when he memorized Navy’s plays, and by the fourth grade, he started breaking down Navy game films. On Monday nights he would join his father for the scouting report sessions he’d hold with Navy players.
"Obviously, he had a tremendous influence on my life personally, and particularly in the football aspect," Bill Belichick said hours after his father died in November 2005, when his Patriots fittingly won another game. "It was great to be able to share the tremendous memories with him and some of our recent successes."
“The values of the Belichick home under Steve, you waste nothing, you respect the people you work with, and you do everything to the best of your ability, is the signature of the son today. He is very much his father’s son,” said the late best-selling author David Halberstam, who chronicled the life of the father in a 2005 book, “The Education of a Coach.”
Bill Belichick was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and raised in Annapolis. After graduating from Annapolis High School, he attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts for a postgraduate year. Upon his graduation from Phillips, Belichick attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut where he played center/tight end. In addition to being a member of the football team, he also played lacrosse and squash, serving as the captain of the lacrosse team during his senior season. He is a member of Chi Psi fraternity and graduated in 1975 with a degree in economics.
He was also talented enough to enter Corporate America. He had been recruited by a large company, promising a training program and a good salary. But Bill Belichick wanted to be a football coach, just like his father.
"I had never encouraged him to be a coach, but when he told me what he wanted to do, I never discouraged him, either," Steve Belichick told the Washington Post.
It was also clear that Bill’s exposure to the Naval Academy had a profound impact on his values and coaching style:
“I want to thank the people of the Naval Academy for teaching me the meaning of the word teamwork,” Belichick said soon after winning his second Super Bowl in 2004. “I try to impart that to the players I’ve coached, and I think our players this year displayed to the entire nation, maybe the entire world, how guys collectively committed to a goal can work unselfishly for the team.”
Roger Staubach remembers the impression young Bill Belichick made on him when he was hanging around Navy practices and games, calling him "a part of our team the four years I was there. He just loved being with his dad,” he told the Washington Post.
“He's got great roots. He's got an aura about him. He's got the fire you want to see, but he always gives other people credit, and I bet that's something he got from his father, too," Staubach added.
About 200 people attended his father’s memorial service at the Naval Academy chapel, in November 2005, including Patriots owner Robert Kraft, former New York Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi, and former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis. Also in attendance were coaches, players and career naval officers for whom the elder Belichick had been a coach or mentor over the years.
"He had three great loves in his life: football, his family and this school, and he was fully committed and attentive to each every day of his life," said former Naval Academy superintendent Tom Lynch. "I was one of thousands of midshipmen to pass through this man’s life ... It was only many years later when reflecting on the values, commitment and genuine concern Steve expressed for each of us, that I began to realize and appreciate the impact he had on our lives." To the very end, he was all-Navy. Bill Belichick said his father watched Navy’s 38-17 win over Temple at Annapolis, Md., on his last Saturday afternoon on earth, then watched more college football on television that night. "He went peacefully," his son said.