SANTA CLARA – New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday he wishes he had the chance to work for former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo.
Belichick and the Patriots will be at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday when DeBartolo is honored for his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The normally taciturn Belichick was effusive in his praise of DeBartolo and his family when asked about him on a conference call with Bay Area reporters.
“Eddie and I actually go back a long way,” Belichick said. “I go back even further with his wife (Candy). When I was a kid, my dad grew up in Struthers (Ohio) and her family, her parents, were great friends of my grandparents. They honestly had a lot to do with the opportunity my dad and ultimately our family received and knew Eddie through her.
“I have tremendous respect for Eddie. We competed against them for so many years when I was with the Giants in the NFC. Every game was a monster game, playoff games, the conference games. They were always great, great competition. I have so much respect for Eddie, the organization he built with the 49ers. I think his selection into the Hall of Fame is long overdue. But (I’m) glad that he received the recognition that I certainly feel he deserved.”
Belichick continued: “I regret I wasn’t able to be at the induction myself this year. I just couldn’t work it out on my schedule, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. I think what he’s done on a personal level, the support he’s given to friends, friends that go back with him all the way to high school and grade school and all that, support he’s shown for the Youngstown-Poland (Ohio) community. He’s been a great friend.
“I’ve sought his advice many times. He’s always been very candid, open, and helpful. I just couldn’t say enough great things about Eddie. I wish I’d had the opportunity to work for him. Although I had a great experience with the Giants. I don’t regret anything that happened. I’m not saying that. He was truly one of the great owners that the league has had. The things that he and coach Walsh did organizationally were so far ahead of their time. I mean, they were tremendous.
“I look forward to seeing him this weekend (and) personally being able to congratulate him,” Belichick concluded. “I’ve talked to him on the phone a couple of times since his selection, but it will be good to see him personally. Tremendous respect for him. Couldn’t really put it into words. It goes beyond that. And I’ll be forever grateful, as will my grandparents and father and his family for what his wife and her family did for ours.”