Most of know Bill Belichick as the one of the greatest football minds ever to coach the game. He’s won five Super Bowls and along with quarterback Tom Brady, created perhaps the most powerful football dynasty in NFL history. But Belichick wasn’t always a mastermind. Like many coaches he too has humble beginnings as a player.
But once upon a time he was a college sophomore just like thousands of other kids, following his dream of playing football at the highest level possible.
Belichick In College
What might surprise you about Belichick is he was something of a hippie. He wore his hair long and listened to the Grateful Dead. But he was still taken seriously as an athlete. He played both football and lacrosse his freshman year at Wesleyan. On the football field he was though of as an average center, but he excelled at long-snapping. If his lineman skills were subpar, apparently his ability to snap the ball was impressive.
Belichick was also in a fraternity at Wesleyan. His brothers as well as his teammates remember him as the voice of reason. He was the one to solve arguments in the frat house as well conflicts on the field.
Belichick’s Career-Ending Injury
Early in his sophomore year of college, Belichick’s football career came to an end. His coaches were trying to prepare for an upcoming game and were trying something new in practice. They were under the impression that their upcoming rival had a weakness in their kicking team. So the coaching staff used Wesleyan’s back up kicking team to help their defense prepare. This meant that Belichick was on the field as the center.
Anyone who has been around football knows that the center is incredibly vulnerable during a long snap. This is because he is looking backwards while he snaps the ball and cannot look forward towards the opposing team until the ball has left his hands. That is why it’s a penalty for the defense to hit the center during or right after he snaps the ball.
It just so happened that the Wesleyan coaches believed they could exploit a weakness at the center of their upcoming opponent’s kicking team. And so Belichick became the guinea pig.
What happened during this practice is disputed by players and coaches. But it most likely happened like this: Two tackles lined up in front of Belichick. Once the ball was snapped, the tackles hit Belichick and wrapped up his legs. Then a linebacker came in a ran over the future star coach.
This play was not just run once but over and over again, perhaps as many as 10 times. Eventually Belichick’s body couldn’t take it anymore. His leg snapped and he screamed in pain, writhing on the ground as his teammates gathered around. He was in a cast the next day and didn’t return to play.
What Belichick’s coaches did was reckless. It was dangerous. Perhaps it was even illegal. And perhaps it explains why Belichick has so much drive, so much passion, and why he simply does not let his team be bested.