New England's Belichick talks football with the JCJC BobcatsMarch 27, 2013
By Shawn Wansley, JCJC Sports Information Director
ELLISVILLE – Bill Belichick is one of the most successful head coaches in the history of the National Football League.
And the head coach of the New England Patriots is quick to credit Jones County Junior College head coach Ray Perkins with being a major influence on his career.
“I owe an awful lot to Coach Perkins for the opportunity he gave me in 1979 to coach special teams for the (New York) Giants,” he said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the Bobcat Fieldhouse. “I then coached linebackers for Coach (Bill) Parcells, then became defensive coordinator and that led to some other opportunities, but it all started with Ray and I appreciate everything he did for me and my family.
“He has been a great friend and I learned an awful lot from him – discipline, consistency, teamwork and attention to detail.”
Belichick was in town to help raise money for the JCJC Foundation. “An Evening with Coach Bill Belichick” was held Tuesday night at the Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg.
But before that, Belichick came to the JCJC campus.
He spoke briefly to the Bobcat baseball team before their doubleheader with Hinds and then addressed the Bobcat football team in the meeting room of the fieldhouse. Belichick talked to the team for about 15 minutes and then answered questions for about 40 minutes.
“We just talked about football and the opportunity it brings,” Belichick said. “The players asked some great questions. It was fun and I consider it an honor to be asked to talk to someone else’s team.”
Belichick told the players to take advantage of every opportunity they can.
“I told them you earn what you get,” he said. “That’s one great thing about football and sports – you don’t get any handouts. It does not matter what kind of car you drive or where you live or what kind of watch you wear. You get to go out there and earn it on the field through your performance, practice, participation and attendance at meetings.
“That’s a great life lesson. You’re not entitled to anything. Nobody gets anything on the football field unless you earn it.”
Belichick has been in the South scouting players for next month’s NFL Draft. He is familiar with the area because former Bobcat wide receiver Deion Branch plays for the Patriots and has told him about Jones. Plus, former Southern Miss stars Bobby Hamilton and Adalius Thomas played for Belichick with the Patriots.
“I’ve been to Hattiesburg a few times to Southern Miss,” he said. “We’ve had some kids from down here play for us. Deion is from Jones and played at Louisville. Bobby Hamilton did a great job for us. Adalius came in and played a couple of years for us and he had a great career with Baltimore.”
Hamilton’s work ethic still stands out to Belichick.
“Bobby was with the Jets,” he said. “When I got the job at New England, he was one of those guys we brought in and he did well because of his toughness, work ethic, dependability and team attitude.
“He was not the greatest player we had, but he was a good player and the intangibles he brought to us were exemplary.”
Belichick noted that the Patriots scout all over the country, but he knows there is plenty of talent in the South.
“We really don’t look at teams, we look at players,” he said. “Obviously, there are a lot of good football players here. It’s a great football area and you know they come from great high school football programs. There are a lot of good players down here in the Gulf Coast states: Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
“If they work hard and improve, they can become potential draft choices and pro prospects. But mainly we focus on individual players and how they fit into our program.”
But the main reason Belichick was on campus was because of Perkins.
Belichick said Perkins wanted players and teams to be champions – not just good.
“It was great for me,” he said of coaching under Perkins. “Coach Perkins taught me a lot about toughness, discipline, how to handle a team, how much he expected from them and how they responded.
“A lot of coaches I’ve been around demanded a certain level and got that level. I would say Coach Perkins demanded a higher level and he got the higher level. One of the many things I learned from him is to set the expectations high. You are not trying to put a good team out there, you are trying to put a championship team out there.”
Belichick said he learned a lot about decision-making from Perkins.
“I learned from Coach Perkins about being decisive, being firm and doing what’s right,” he said. “You can’t be wishy-washy about it. You’ve got to take a stand – take the information, make a decision and go with it.”
Belichick said Perkins’ decision to draft quarterback Phil Simms out of Morehead State in 1979 and linebacker Lawrence Taylor out of North Carolina in 1981 – and the decision to play them quickly – was not popular at the time.
“He drafted Phil Simms in 1979 and that was a pick that was met with a lot skepticism,” Belichick said. “He made those kinds of decisions based on what was right for the team and not what everybody on the outside thought.
“We had a veteran group of linebackers when we drafted Lawrence Taylor. We had Brad Van Pelt, Brian Kelley and Harry Carson. There was some sentiment that we should let LT learn from the guys in front of him and gain some experience.
“I remember after the first scrimmage we had out at Pace University (N.Y.), Coach Perkins came over and said, ‘Just get him in there. He is going to be one of the greatest players who has ever played. Get him in the lineup. He ain’t sitting behind anybody.’
“It’s easy to look back at those decisions now and say, ‘Oh yeah. That was great.’ But at that time, it was not so clear cut.”
Belichick has led the Patriots to three Super Bowl championships and was an assistant coach under Parcells when the Giants won two. He said winning the Super Bowl is the ultimate, but he gives credit to the players.
“That’s what we play for – we play to win the last game of the season,” he said. “Those were great years and great teams – two with the Giants and three with the Patriots. I’ve been fortunate to coach a lot of great players and those are the ones that win the games. A coach is only as good as his players and the way they perform.
“I enjoy what I do. I enjoy the team-building part of it and I enjoy the preparation. It beats working.”
Perkins was thrilled to have Belichick on campus.
“First I want to say much we appreciate your presence here, Bill,” he said. “He is one of the greatest coaches of all time and a certain Hall of Famer. He is a man I’ve gotten to know since 1979 and I consider him a friend.”
Belichick was happy to be at JCJC. He was particularly excited when he saw the “Deion Branch Player Development Center” sign in the Bobcat weightroom. He took out his Smartphone, snapped a picture of it and immediately emailed it to Branch.
“I appreciate the opportunity to come down to Jones,” Belichick said.
“It’s a great facility here and the school has a lot of tradition I’ve heard so much about from Deion.”
Top photo: New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick smiles during a press conference Tuesday afternoon in the Bobcat Fieldhouse.
Photos/Shawn Wansley, JCJC Sports Information