ֱAll I really am about is trying to win football games.ֱ

ֱ Bill Belichick, January 2000

The dude flat-out lied to us.

Bill Belichick piloted us all on a magical ride for 24 years, the six titles, nine Super Bowls and 13 AFC Championship games. It will never be touched, but it would be sad to think heֱs just ֱaboutֱ winning football.

Belichick has spent 24 years trying to hide it. Heֱs a much better guy than he would ever have let you think.

Inside the walls, first at Foxborough Stadium and then at Gillette Stadium, Belichick sought out and demanded character from his players.

Remember that 2001 free agent class: Vrabel, Izzo, Compton, Buckley, Phifer, Pleasant, Edwards, et al.

Character.

Well, the coach set the tone for character and accountability. Nobody, not even the most maniacal of all the maniacal, Tom Brady, would outwork Bill.

Belichick again shunned the attention, but there is so much more to this guy than wins or titles.

Character, heart and a great sense of pride are what I will remember most about Bill Belichick as this run in New England ended here Thursday.

Here are a couple quick stories to hopefully help you understand just what Belichick is all about ֱ after the greatness.

The first story still makes me tear up. It happened in the spring of 2015.

Those of you who know me know that Iֱve had a working relationship over at Masconomet Regional High School, both coaching and mentoring kids.

From 2011-2015, I built a relationship with a special young man, who just happened to be the biggest Pats fan I have ever known. For four years, he talked about working with me in sports writing as his senior internship and I threw the carrot at him that if he reached that point and did the job, I would bring him to Foxborough that spring on draft night as part of the media.

Well, he did, and thankfully Stacey James and the Patriots granted him a credential.

He was ecstatic. About a week before the draft, I reached out to Belichick and asked if he could, after his Day 1 presser, just come over and say hello. Bill responded yes, almost immediately.

Draft night is long. The Patriots picked at No. 32, last in the first round (Malcom Brown) and Belichickֱs presser was well after midnight when all was said and done.

As the press conference droned on, the student begged me to let him ask a question. When things finally died down, I turned him loose. and the ֱquestionֱ was basically, ֱGreat pick, right?ֱ

Belichick went into a long, thoughtful response that finished with a smile. It was touching, heartfelt, and the coach wasnֱt done.

When he left the podium, Belichick made a beeline to my intern and asked, ֱSo, really, do you like the pick?ֱ

It made the kidֱs night, day, year. It was a small thing, but damn, Belichick ֱ the person ֱ knocked it out of the park.

Since 2015, I have always defended Bill, the person and the coach, in conversations. The guy has a big heart, even if he publicly attempts to hide it.

Early Bill was great Bill

During the first Super Bowl run in 2001-2004, Bill and the Patriots were much more accessible and personable.

Billֱs Friday press conferences were football gold. There were limited reporters ֱ 15 or 20 tops ֱ and he dove deep into the game.

One of those I attended, the subject of Lawrence Taylor was broached and Bill took the ball and ran with it.

Two admissions here: I grew up loving the Dallas Cowboys. Remember, the Pats stunk in my youth much of the time, and the Cowboys were dynamite with Roger Staubach and Co. So, I hated the Giants. The second, I was a young punk, just starting out on the beat back then, basically. and Bill had no clue who I was, nor should he have. I was a faceless jamoke from a midsize daily.

Well, the LT tongue bath seemed endless about his greatness, and Iֱm not sure if I blurted it out on purpose, but I stopped Bill with my own commentary: ֱYeah, but everyone knows teams ran successfully right at Taylor. They ran right at him.ֱ

There, I got him. I stopped Bill Belichick, right?

Nah. With his trademark incredulous look, Bill queried, ֱHave you ever watched football?ֱ

I shrunk back into my seat, begging for a place to hide.

I canֱt explain why that day stands out. Bill has a way to make your argument feel merited, even though he vehemently disagreed, when he wanted to.

There was respect there, even in his dismissal. I remember walking out, thinking, well, at least he listened to my point.

Truth is, Dallas had success. Did you know Tony Dorsett never had a 100-yard day against LT and the Giants with one rushing TD in 12 games?

But we can still agree to disagree.

You can email Hector Longo at hlongo@eagletribune.com.

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