BOSTON (CBS) — An emotional Bill Belichick spoke to the media on Thursday morning, just three days after his mother, Jeannette, passed away at the age of 98.
Before taking football questions from reporters, Belichick told PR director Stacey James that he’d like to make an opening statement. Belichick expressed thanks to everyone who reached out to express their sympathy, and he went on to share the love that he had for his mother.
“Everybody has a certain relationship with their mom and dad, but you know as an only child, I was especially close to my parents,” Belichick said. “My mom and I spent a lot of time together. She was a great woman and I certainly learned pretty much everything from my parents. And then, you know, with her love that she gave to the love that she gave to her grandkids — to Amanda, Steve and Brian — was ultra special to me as well. So I appreciate everyone’s thoughts and condolences. She had almost 99 years, so a very long and happy life. So she will be with my dad now.”
Belichick thanked fellow head coaches Pete Carroll and John Harbaugh for their public expressions of sympathy, while noting that a number of other people — some friends, some complete strangers — reached out as well.
“Just to thank everyone who’s reached out and expressed their sympathy and condolences for my mom, especially Pete had some really a great words, and John Harbaugh, and many others that I know — friends, football people and honestly, many people that I’ve never met or contacted before,” Belichick said. “So I do really appreciate the support there.”
Belichick’s father, Steve, met Jeannette at Hiram College. And while Bill credited his father’s life as a coach and scout for guiding his own career path, the future Hall of Famer has always credited his mother for his love of learning.
Belichick said that his mother’s knowledge of seven languages was impressive. He expressed some regret for not being able to develop those same language skills, lamenting that he only knows “un peu” French.
“We had a very close relationship there. My mom was really kind of an academic person,” Belichick said. “She was very good in college and then after college, she worked for the maps service during World War II and translated European maps because she spoke seven languages — well, it was six at that time. She didn’t know Croatian [yet]. But she was involved in the translation of maps during the war effort and then came back and taught languages at Hiram after the war, starting in 1945. So unfortunately those language skills didn’t rub off on her son, and one language is really about all I have. But, she encouraged me to do the things that I want to do. She was very supportive of those. I wish I could have been better in in the field that she was very good at. I tried that for a while but I just didn’t just didn’t have it in all honesty.”
Belichick also explained how his weekends watching football as a child were always spent alongside his mother.
“Yeah, well, she was a very unselfish person and sacrificed a lot for her family,” Belichick said. “And so of course me personally and I appreciate and love her for that, and many other things. But my dad was away a lot on scouting trips, and so I always kind of grew up with her on the weekends, on football weekends at home. So we watched hundreds of games together, whether it was Navy games or listen to them on the radio or watch other games that were on TV and so forth when my dad was away on Friday night, Saturday and, sometimes Sunday morning, depending on how far he had to travel for the games that he was scouting. So football season for me as a kid was, you know, my dad getting home late during the week, and my mom on the weekends to watch football games. And so that was, we became very close and shared those experiences together.”
Belichick continued: “The only time really that I saw my dad during the end of the game week was the Army-Navy game. And then when he got home later at night, when I was older I was able to stay up and see him. And if I stayed out of trouble, I might get to do something with him later at night. But I just didn’t want to act badly for my mom and have her turn me in, which she didn’t do very often. Even though I was deserving of it.”