The professional football franchise now known as the New England Patriots was founded on Nov. 16, 1959 — certainly a day to celebrate.
Robert Kraft bought the team on Jan. 21, 1994, also a day to celebrate, particularly since the franchise was enduring a terrible stretch on the field with two terrible short-term owners off it.
But this day — April 16 — should be celebrated as a holiday by Patriots fans all over, because it’s the day that turned one of the NFL’s also-rans into a dynasty.
April 16, 1952
On April 16, 1952, a baby named William Stephen Belichick was born in Nashville. The only child of Jeanette and Steve Belichick, he was named after his godfather, College Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Edwards, who was also his father’s boss at Vanderbilt.
Bill Belichick grew up in Annapolis, Maryland. The family moved there when he was a toddler; Edwards and his staff were fired by Vandy not long after Bill was born, and Steve Belichick coached at North Carolina for a couple of years before joining the staff at the U.S. Naval Academy, primarily as a scout.
Steve Belichick often brought his work home, his precocious son took an interest, and the education of arguably the greatest coach in the NFL began.
Fast-forward to early 2000, when Kraft swung a trade with the New York Jets, giving them a first-round draft pick in order to make Bill Belichick the Patriots’ head coach.
April 16, 2000
Less than four months after Belichick became head coach in New England, he was overseeing his first draft with the team.
The Patriots had a starting quarterback in Drew Bledsoe that had already taken the team to a Super Bowl a few years earlier. But on the second day of the 2000 draft, on April 16, quarterbacks coach Dick Rehbein told Belichick to use a sixth-round compensatory pick, the 199th, on University of Michigan quarterback Tom Brady, and not Louisiana Tech’s Tim Rattay.
Rehbein loved what he’d seen of Brady. Yes, he was slow and skinny. But he was also smart and had a knack for bringing his team back.
“This is the kid. I just believe in this kid. I really believe in him as a person,” Kyle O’Brien, who was then a scouting intern in the Patriots’ personnel department, recalled Rehbein saying of Brady.
Rehbein died suddenly during training camp in 2001, so he never got to see that he was absolutely right about Brady. He is smart and fearless and has a knack for bringing his team back, which he did on the biggest stage, in his 17th career start, putting the Patriots in position for Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning field goal to upset the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Belichick and Brady have led New England to five more Super Bowl wins since.
And it all began on April 16.
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