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Laconia's Phil Estes knows what iconic ex-Patriots' coach Belichick is going through

Jan. 11—PHIL ESTES has been in the same position that Bill Belichick is now.

Estes stepped down as Brown University's second-winningest head football coach in 2018 after 21 seasons and three Ivy League titles.

Belichick, who is 14 wins shy of Don Shula's record for most wins as an NFL head coach, and the New England Patriots parted ways on Thursday.

Over his 24-year tenure, New England won six Super Bowls and appeared in nine.

When Estes stepped down in 2018, then-Brown Athletic Director Jack Hayes said Estes "simply was Brown football."

"It's really hard because your whole identity, for me, was Brown and Brown football," Estes said. " And, I think, that's (the same) with coach Belichick. Wherever he goes, he'll be synonymous with the Patriots."

Estes, who graduated from Laconia High School in 1976 and the University of New Hampshire in 1980, met Belichick in the early 2000s through ESPN personality and Brown alum Chris Berman.

Berman got Belichick to speak to the Brown football team, the first of several engagements over the years. At the first one, Estes said he was as much in awe of the legendary coach as his players were.

"I have pictures of Coach Belichick and I together on the stage," said Estes, a lifelong Patriots fan. "Those are the things that I'll remember forever. What we talked about were my football players and his players and players that I've had that played for him and had a lot of success."

Estes, who captained the UNH football team in 1979, coached three players who went on to win Super Bowls with Belichick's Patriots: fullback James Develin, wide receiver Chas Gessner and offensive lineman Drew Inzer.

Develin, who played at Brown from 2006 to 2009, won three Super Bowls and played in 83 games with the Patriots from 2012-2019.

Gessner was on New England's practice squad when it won Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004. Inzer, who captained Brown in 2000, was signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2001 and was on the practice squad when they won their first Super Bowl that season.

"It was truly a transformative experience," Develin said of playing for Belichick. "I mean, obviously, the Xs and Os, the football, he's got it beyond anyone else's capacity that I've ever met. The guy is so intelligent when it comes to football, almost like predictively so ... He's also just a great person, a great leader of men.

"I don't know how many times in the last three-and-change years that I've been out of the game that I'm reminded of a lesson that he taught me either directly or indirectly about football or life."

When the Patriots were interested in a Brown player, Estes typically talked with his former assistant coach and 1992 Brown graduate Bill O'Brien, who is currently New England's offensive coordinator.

O'Brien, now in his second stint with the Patriots, was Brown's tight ends coach during the 1993 season and coached the inside linebackers in 1994.

Great expectations

When they signed with the Patriots, Estes would explain to his former players what Belichick expected from them.

"My biggest advice to them was you're going to be involved with one of the greatest coaches ever," Estes said, "and his big thing is going to be about loyalty, it's going to be about attention to detail, it's going to be about being intelligent with the game and being unselfish and things like that.

"If you had those qualities, then you were going to make it with Belichick."

Belichick and Estes were similar in how they ran their teams, Develin said. Respect, he said, was the foundation for both coaches.

"You respect the game, you respect your opponents, you prepare with that respect," Develin said. "That was just the way I always kind of viewed the game ... I always appreciated that about both of those guys."

Estes considers Belichick to be the greatest NFL coach of all time.

"Sometimes I don't think people appreciate someone until they're gone and I think that's one of these cases right now," Estes said.

"I think people, maybe a year from now, a month from now when he (Belichick) is gone, they're going to appreciate what he really did, too.

"I mean, what he did was iconic."

ahall@unionleader.com