It was July 23, 2000 – we packed the car for a Marcantonio summer tradition. We were heading 50 miles south to Smithfield, Rhode Island to watch our New England Patriots start training camp practices at Bryant College.
This year was different. Our uniform changed as did our head coach.
As a 10-year-old I felt this was probably a good thing. A few months prior – the day after Christmas – my grandpa and I were walking back to our car after the Patriots lost their third game in a row to the Buffalo Bills. As we crossed the street Patriots coach Pete Carroll was stopped at a red light.
My grandfather crossed the road screaming a few choice words at our coach. So, yes, even as a 10-year-old I knew a new coach was probably good – especially for grandpa’s sake as he spent many days complaining about good ole’ Pete.
We got a new coach, Bill Belichick. I was upset we traded our first-round draft pick for him. But, my grandpa and uncle insisted he was a great coach. We also took him for the Jets – so that wasn’t a bad thing.
New coach. New uniforms. A new season. We arrived at training camp excited.
We noticed there were more fans than normal, but we could hear the players breathing we were so close. I intently watched QB Michael Bishop – my favorite Patriots player. I was hoping a rookie QB named Tom Brady wouldn’t beat him out for the No. 2 QB spot behind Drew Bledsoe.
We left that day with a new level of expectation. Seventeen years later from that coaching change and that expectation and excitement remains strong. As football season approaches the fore-front of our minds, I can’t help but reflect on that day in Rhode Island.
Since Belichick became the Patriots coach, I’ve watched 306 games. I’ve attend 40-50 practices. I’ve listened to hundreds of press conferences and read thousands of articles.
Belichick quickly became a part of many New Englanders families. He wasn’t just a coach anymore. Although I’ve never said a word to Belichick he has been a constant leader in my life for almost two decades.
Naturally, when you’ve been around (listened, read and observed) someone for 17 years, you pick up on a few things. Here’s what I’ve personally learned from Bill Belichick.