FOXBOROUGH -- Steve Belichick, an influential college football scout for decades and the father of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, died Saturday night of heart failure. He was 86.
''I coached this game with a heavy heart," Bill Belichick said after yesterday's 24-17 win over the New Orleans Saints. ''I found out about it the middle of last night."
The Patriots' coach learned his meticulous game preparation by watching his father, an assistant coach at Navy for 33 years.
''Obviously, he had a tremendous influence on my life personally, and particularly in the football aspect," Bill Belichick said. ''It was great to be able to share the tremendous memories with him and some of our recent successes."
For most of his three decades with Navy, Mr. Belichick scouted the team's next opponent. ''He was a genius," Joe Bellino, winner of the Heisman Trophy in 1960 for Navy, told The New York Times last year. ''On Monday nights, he would give us his scouting reports, and even though we were playing powerhouses, I always felt we were prepared because he found a way for us to win."
In 1963, Mr. Belichick wrote a book on his work, ''Football Scouting Methods."
Patriots owner Robert Kraft presented Belichick with the game ball after yesterday's game in honor of his father's memory.
''I know how important his father was to him, having him (Steve) here at training camp every year," quarterback Tom Brady said. ''And he was a great man and he raised a great son."
Steve Belichick was a familiar face around Gillette Stadium and was the first person Bill Belichick embraced after New England's 24-21 win over Philadelphia in February's Super Bowl, the team's third championship in four years.
Linebacker Tedy Bruschi doused the duo with a container of icy-cold liquid.
''I was coming up with the bucket and I saw Bill embracing his father. I thought, 'What a sweet moment. Aw, I'll get them both,' " Bruschi said yesterday.
''(Steve Belichick) was around a lot, but you had to sort of twist his arm to get a lot of words out of him. . . . Like father, like son," Bruschi said.
The elder Belichick, a Struthers, Ohio native, played football and basketball at Case Western Reserve University, graduating in 1941.
In 1941, he volunteered to be an equipment manager for the Detroit Lions and ended up a blocking back for a year for quarterback Byron ''Whizzer" White, who went on to become a Supreme Court Justice.
Mr. Belichick served in the Navy during World War II. After the war, he was head football, basketball, and track coach at Hiram College for three years. He was an assistant football coach at Vanderbilt and North Carolina, before moving to the Naval Academy in 1956.
He served under seven head coaches, helped coach two Heisman Trophy winners, and helped lead the Midshipmen to seven bowl games. He was also an associate professor of physical training.
''The Naval Academy suffered a great loss today with the passing of Steve Belichick," Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said. ''He has been a part of the fabric of this institution for 50 years and has touched the lives of thousands of midshipmen, staff, alumni, and friends."
Bill Belichick said his father watched Navy's 38-17 win over Temple at Annapolis, Md., on Saturday afternoon then watched more college football on television that night.
''He went peacefully," his son said.
In addition to his son, Mr. Belichick leaves his wife, Jeannette.