Referrals mean a lot more when they're coming from someone you trust, and clearly, Alabama coach Nick Saban has the ear of Bill Belichick.
The legendary coaches go back all the way to 1982, when Saban was coaching with Belichick's father, Steve, at the Naval Academy. About a decade later, when Belichick got his own shot as an NFL head coach, he hired Saban to be his defensive coordinator.
Their lives, personal and professional, have been intertwined ever since. Saban and Belichick make time from their busy schedules to chat on the phone or play golf every so often, but their favorite place to catch up, naturally, is at Alabama's Pro Day.
Of course, the trips to Tuscaloosa aren't just to reunite with an old friend.
"Nick does a great job. When his players leave here, they're ready to go [at the NFL level]," Belichick told The Boston Globe's Jim McBride down in Tuscaloosa.
"There's always good players here. They do a great job. These guys are going to play somewhere, whether we draft them or not," he said. "So, it's good to get to know them. They do a great job. I like watching film with the players and seeing some of the things schematically that they're doing."
Belichick has brought in quite a few Crimson Tide prospects since Saban took the program over in 2007, including Brandon Deaderick, Dont'a Hightower, Xzavier Dickson, Cyrus Jones, Damien Harris, Anfernee Jennings, and Mack Wilson, whom New England recently traded for.
In the 2021 NFL Draft, the Patriots' top two picks both came from Alabama, and both quarterback Mac Jones and defensive tackle Christian Barmore managed to stand out during their first season in the league among a pool of talented rookies.
This came as no surprise to their former coach.
"Mac is really a bright guy and Mac is a great example of somebody who had to show great resiliency and perseverance to learn and grow in an organization for three, four years before he got much of an opportunity," Saban said of Jones' first year in the league.
"And he has had really good mentors ahead of him that he had a chance to learn from. He took advantage of every one of those circumstances in every one of those situations. He's the perfect example of a guy that worked his butt off so that when he got an opportunity, he could take advantage of it. And I think that's a question that every young player should ask themselves is, 'Is that what I'm doing? Or am I frustrated with my circumstances and not focused on what I can control?' So, when you asked me, was I surprised by what Mac did? Not at all, and I'm sure he'll do nothing but get better."
Jones completed 67.6% of his pass attempts last season for 3,801 yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions -- the highest among rookie quarterbacks despite being the fifth signal-caller taken off the board.
Barmore, meanwhile, was New England's second selection in 2021, and went on to rack up 51 total pressures, a 76.1 pass rush grade, and a 17% pass rush win rate, per Pro Football Focus. In all three categories, Barmore trailed only Micah Parsons among rookies.
"He's talented, for a guy his size to have the kind of initial quickness that he has allows him to be a really good inside pass rusher," Saban said. "And he's a fairly instinctive guy in terms of how to apply some of those skills that he has. And with Christian, it was just like a lot of guys that come out early, they have to mature a little bit and realize, 'What is it I have to do to edit my behavior so I can be successful?' I think he went through that process here. And I kind of felt like when he went through that and I told Bill that before they picked him that he'll be a really, really good player."
Saban has been spot on so far.