Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick seemed right at home addressing a packed house of Bryant University students, faculty members and guests Wednesday night at the Multipurpose Activities Center at the school's Smithfield, Rhode Island campus.
Part of that comfort level comes with the territory for the guy who has led New England to the top of the football world with three Super Bowl titles in four seasons, reaching a level that had one Bryant student referring to Belichick as "your greatness" during a question and answer portion of the evening. But another reason for the apparent familiarity was the fact that just four years ago, before the Super Bowls and historic winning ways had settled in at Gillette Stadium, Belichick addressed his football team during Patriots training camp in the very same room on the Bryant campus that was at that time used for New England's weight training equipment and training facilities during the months of July and August.
"It may sound corny," Belichick said looking out over the room at the beginning of his speech, "but I can still see it."
The tie between that football coach and the man standing before the more than 1,300 students and faculty members to present a lecture entitled "Decision Making, Attitude and Your Future" as a guest of the University's Trustee Speakers Series was a theme that Belichick carried throughout his one-hour presentation. Belichick gave the students numerous examples of the teamwork, leadership and other keys that have served as the foundation of his football team, ones he urged his listeners to carry over into whatever goals they pursue in life.
After taking the stage to a boisterous standing ovation that caused the coach to jokingly look around and ask, "Did Tom Brady come with me," Belichick said the first key for those on the verge of heading into the work force is to follow their passion.
"Follow your heart and go do something you love to do. Don't be afraid to fail. How many people have been fired," Belichick asked before answering his own question. "Right here."
Not surprisingly Belichick also told his listeners to focus on the short term and not get too hung up on things going exactly as planned, again, an idea that has aided New England's success on the football field in recent years.
"No matter where you think you'll be in the future, I am going to let you in on a little secret, it's going to change," Belichick said. "So my advice is to look at the short term and explore something you can put all your passion into."
Regardless of where that passion may lead the students, Belichick stressed they would all have to work within a team to some degree. With that in mind the coach concluded his prepared remarks by simplifying his team's philosophy into three simple words, the PATs way – Preparation, Attitude and Teamwork.
"When everybody is committed to the same cause and purpose you can accomplish things as a team that nobody thought were possible," Belichick said.
Following the lecture Belichick opened the floor for a few questions from the students. The varied queries ranged from football matters dealing with Corey Dillon and Tedy Bruschi to the importance of mentors in the New England locker room. Upon the conclusion of the questions Bryant University President Ronald K. Machtley presented Belichick with a gray, hooded sweatshirt bearing the school's name on the front, a reference to the similar type of gray sweatshirt the coach has become known for wearing on the New England sidelines during the fall.
Following another standing ovation, Belichick's departure from the stage left a very content and impressed crowed to ponder the speaker's words.
"He's a substance over style guy and that's the kind of guy that I appreciate," Bryant men's basketball coach Max Good said. Good's own successful team just returned from the Division II NCAA basketball championship and was honored prior to Belichick taking the stage Wednesday night. "There are a lot of showmen and a lot people that are a lot more style, but they aren't as much substance. Obviously he's paid his dues coming up through the ranks and everything good that's happened to him I think it's been built on fundamentals and off the sweat of his brow.
"It just shows that if you keep the eye on the prize anything can happen if you stay with it."
One of Good's players, basketball team captain Mike Williams, was equally impressed and could easily see the parallels between Belichick's descriptions of how the Patriots are run and what he and his fellow Bryant student's face heading into the work world.
"In today's work world you are going to have to work in a lot of team environments and that's why sports are so important to kids to get the ability to work with other people," Williams said. "You are going to be working with other people throughout your life and the teamwork that the Patriots display translates to the work world. A group of individuals that can work that well together on the field, a group of individuals comes from all types backgrounds, you are going to find the same thing in the work world. I think it translates. It is almost a mirror image. You are going to have to have the ability, either on the field or in the work place, to work as a team and with other people and the Patriots have shown that can happen."
Williams also saw a man on stage that wasn't necessarily the same one he's heard stories about through the football media.
"I thought he was very comfortable up there," Williams said. "He worked in the jokes, he accepted the questions very well. It was just a great speech."
And if the long term results for those in attendance at Bryant University Wednesday night are anything like those of the people Belichick last addressed in the very same room, his 2001 Patriots team that went on to shock the football world and win Super Bowl XXXVI, then the Bryant students have some very bright futures lying before them.