Bill Belichick ’75 would have made an unlikely professional football player. Sure, he grew up in a football family—his father was also an accomplished coach—but, on the field, Belichick was small and often sidelined by injury.
“He was a mediocre football player except that he was very unusual in that he always asked questions,” said Richard Miller, Belichick’s former economics professor. “He took a very cerebral approach to football.”
Belichick had little impact on the Wesleyan football team. According to Miller, he was a much better lacrosse player, and eventually became, in effect, an assistant coach.
Belichick stood out not for his athleticism but rather for his skill in strategizing and planning. Exhibited first as a player at Wesleyan, he now employs his services as the coach of the Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots.
Football has always been in his veins. Miller says Belichick had been immersed in football since age three.
Belichick’s elite education at Phillips Andover Academy and then Wesleyan may have been unorthodox, but Belichick, an economics major, credits his rigorous schooling in making him the successful coach that he is.
“He was a very good student in economics and he was considering going to graduate school,” Miller said.
In the end, Belichick chose his first love, football, over job hunting in the business world. “That was the correct decision in my view,” Miller said. Miller predicts a victory for Belichick this Sunday.
His education was recently the subject of a New York Times feature column. The article credits his Wesleyan training in economics as an asset when devising plays, deciding who to hire, and dealing with the NFL salary cap.
“There was a common thread at Andover and Wesleyan, both those schools, they taught me how to think, how to solve problems,” Belichick told the Times.
His daughter Amanda Belichick ’07 goes further.
“Being a coach has this intellectual element that coming from this [educational] background gave him an advantage,” Amanda said.
Amanda also credits the diverse education and student body at Wesleyan for making him particularly good at dealing with players and the interests of those involved in the business of professional football.
Belichick has kept close ties with Wesleyan, keeping in contact with old professors, like Miller, and old friends he made during his time here. He was also a brother with the Chi-Psi fraternity.
Belichick is not the only Wesleyan alum working with the Patriots. Eric Mangini, ’94, a fellow Chi Psi fraternity brother, has been defensive backs coach with the Patriots since 2000.
Super Bowl fever might not be as rampant here as on other campuses, but at least some students are awaiting the big game.
“He’s a brilliant strategist,” said Isaac Hunnewell, ’06, a Patriots fan. “It’s obvious that he prepares his team and coaching staff well. He knows how to prepare against any team.”
This Sunday, Belichick will likely be drawing on all his skills—including those acquired in Middletown—while leading his team against the Carolina Panthers.
And as for Amanda, she too is on her way to the Super Bowl in Houston.
“My professors were very understanding,” she said.