“The public doesn’t know the real guy,” says Bill Devereaux, a Rhode Island attorney who was Belichick’s freshman roommate at Wesleyan and has remained so close to him that when Belichick was first hired in New England last January, he lived for several months with Devereaux and his family.
“My wife would say he was the perfect house guest,” Devereaux says. “You seldom saw him.
He’d be out of the house by 5:30 a.m. and not get back until 9 or 10 at night. But when he was there, we’d talk about a lot of things, watch some tube, have some laughs, seldom talk about football. I’m in the Naval Reserve. He reminds me of one of those admirals who focus on their jobs but know when to cut it off, too.
“So is he this guy obsessed with football? I’d say no. He’s very focused, and he loves what he does, but he has a life. One night we’re at my house, and he tells me Bon Jovi is playing at the Civic Center in Providence and asks me to go. I figured, what the hell? I never schmoozed with any rock stars, so I went. It was funny. We’re back in the dressing room, and they were just like friends of his from New Jersey asking questions about football. They weren’t guys all lathered up about each other’s celebrity.”
Ernie Adams, who is in charge of research in the Patriots’ operation and has been Belichick’s alter ego for 30 years, concurs with Devereaux’s view.
“If he was set down in another country tomorrow where he couldn’t coach football and they’d never even heard of the game, Bill would find something else interesting to do,” Adams says. “Football is a part of the world that fascinates him. But only a part of it.”
A large part of it, to be sure, but not all of it.
“I was an Army officer,” Belichick’s former Andover teammate Seero says finally of the man Robert Kraft has hired to lead his team. “In that culture, your word is your bond and you lead by example. Bill would be respected in that culture. He looks at all the angles of anything he does. In a society where everyone wants a quick solution, he knows there isn’t one. His approach is not in vogue today, but maybe it should be. It’s the best model for a successful life.”
Not everyone would agree with Seero’s opinion of Belichick. Certainly, many of the people who knew him in Cleveland would tell you he is a man without personality or professional compassion, a man too driven to succeed, too foul-mouthed and angry, too unbending in his views. Others would back the opinion of Seero and Belichick’s closest friends, who see in him a special guy who is loyal to his past and careful and concise about his future and his family.
The truth probably lies in the middle, because that is where it usually is found, especially with a complex personality like Bill Belichick. But that is not why he has been brought to New England this time. He is not in Foxboro to find a place to grow.
He is here to do what all coaches must. He is here to win football games. If he does, he knows, the rest of who he is won’t matter much.
And if he doesn’t, no one will care about it.