By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Bill Belichick has still got the juice.READ MORE: Patriots Mock Draft Roundup: Mac Jones Or Trey Lance In First Round?
In case there was any doubt, an unimpressive 7-9 season in 2020 has not tarnished the legendary reputation of the man in charge of the Patriots. And the reaction of new Patriots cornerback Jalen Mills upon meeting Belichick speaks to the type of figure Belichick still is in the NFL.
“I actually just ran into Coach Belichick in the cafeteria, and I almost lost it in there. I had to catch myself,” Mills told Megan O’Brien in an interview for Patriots.com. “Because he was trying to be serious, and I was just so excited to see him and talk to him. So it’s going great.”
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Excitement, energy & a whole lot of passion.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) March 22, 2021
Mills was one of a number of players targeted by Belichick immediately upon the opening of the free-agent tampering window. Along with linebacker Matt Judon, receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, and tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, Mills is one of several players that Patriots fans will be getting to know in the upcoming year. Bourne was asked to explain what fans need to know about him.
“I’m a guy who plays with a lot of energy. I play with my heart on my sleeve, so my passion shows through my play,” Mills said. “And I’m just going to go out there and give it my all.”
Later on Monday, Mills met the Patriots’ media for the first time, and his cafeteria meeting with Belichick was obviously a topic of conversation.
“I’m about to walk out of the cafeteria and I just heard, ‘Hey Jalen.’ So I turn around and it’s coach. And in my mind I’m saying, ‘OK, this is coach,’ but it really didn’t click that it’s Coach Belichick,” Mills said.
As Belichick was talking, Mills said he had to take a moment to react.
“I literally turned my back to him and I screamed out loud, like, ‘This is coach Belichick.’ Excuse my language, but like, ‘This is f—ing Coach Belichick.’ Like, I screamed it loud. And then I turned back around and he was still just like monotone, like regular, just still having a casual conversation with me, when I’m freaking out.”
Mills said that Belichick reacted like a rock star, as if such outbursts happen all the time, and he explained that he’s admired Belichick’s defenses for as long as he can remember.MORE NEWS: Xander Bogaerts Shares His Thoughts On Liverpool, Super League: 'I Like It The Way It Is'
“This is a guy who I’ve been watching since before I even started taking football serious,” Mills said. “I just know they’ve always been dominant. Before I could really know about scheme … you just know that they were always dominant. Always had linebackers who could scrape and hit and run. Always had guys in the secondary who could pick the ball off. It was just always amazing to me.”