VetFamily: Bill Belichick, Undefeated
With his historic victory and an undefeated regular season 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 his Patriots claiming a perfect 16-and-0 regular season record, he and his teammates speak with a singular focus and intensity that belies many of the world’s most-accomplished perfectionists: "It’s a great feeling and now is the time to take a day or two and appreciate what this team has done, but at the same time we have our biggest game of the year coming up and we are going to have to be ready for that," Belichick said moments after the Pats’ thrilling showdown against the New York Giants, a come-from-behind 38-35 victory.
Onward to the final goal: Super Bowl XLII. Only the 1972 Miami Dolphins went perfect in the regular season (14-0, as the NFL season was two games shorter then) and through the post-season with Super Bowl victory.
Aside from a great 2007 record, he totes three Super Bowl rings over the decade, 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 it. 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 literally 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. Aside from his father’s influence, Bill’s exposure to the military 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.”
About 200 people attended his fathers’ memorial service at the Naval Academy chapel, in November, 2005, including Patriots owner Robert Kraft, New York Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi, and 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, then watched more college football on television that night. "He went peacefully," his son said.