Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rutgers Lacrosse with a Super Bowl Connection

The Rutgers Lacrosse season is starting up. Here is an article that was in the Home News today. I am looking forward to the season.

Patriotic Knight:
Bill Belichick's son Steve making name for himself at Rutgers

Home News Tribune Online 01/27/08

At 1 a.m. last Monday, less than seven hours after watching his father's New England Patriots defeat San Diego in the AFC Championship Game from the sideline, Steve Belichick arrived back at his Rutgers University dorm room and crashed for the night. Five hours later, Bill Belichick's son was back on a field, just an ordinary freshman practicing for the Rutgers men's lacrosse team.

"No one's treated differently around here," Rutgers lacrosse coach Jim Stagnitta said, offering a preemptive response for anyone wanting to question whether the younger Belichick gets preferential treatment on his team. "The only perk he's going to get is I'm going to let him attend the Super Bowl. I don't even let him miss a study hall."

Still, Stagnitta knows the circumstances are a tad different for this promising long-stick defenseman. "Probably the biggest challenge he's faced as a first-semester freshman," the coach said, "is the Patriots have had an unbelievable year. The kid's obviously been around it all of his life, so he's used to it. But — and he admitted this — it's been a little bit of a distraction that they're going through this unbeaten season.

"We can't allow him to go to every game, but this is a unique thing. It's not like many kids have a father who's coaching in the Super Bowl." And so Steve Belichick will be excused again this Saturday, shortly after Rutgers' alumni game, and he'll travel to Glendale, Ariz., to catch Super Bowl XLII. "It's exciting what the Patriots are doing this year," Belichick said following a recent practice. "But I'm looking forward to being able to focus on lacrosse. I'm excited for the season to start."

Lacrosse in his blood

Nick Fillipone was sitting in the Rutgers lacrosse locker room last November, hanging out with a few teammates when the New England Patriots coach walked in. "You see him on TV all the time, but we were kind of taken aback when he just walked into our locker room," Fillipone said. It was the first week of November and Belichick was visiting his son during the Patriots' bye week. "We all stood up," Fillipone recalled, "and were like: "Hey, Coach Belichick. How are you doing?' "

Fillipone's first impression of the three-time Super Bowl winning coach? "He was kind of quiet, selective with his words, kind of like you see him on TV," Rutgers' senior defenseman said. "But then we saw him at practice, throwing the ball around with us, and he's smiling and laughing and he's just one of the guys."

It's not surprising that Steve Belichick said he learned how to play from his father, who was a lacrosse star at Annapolis (Md.) High and Phillips Andover (Mass.) Academy before captaining Wesleyan University's team in the early 1970s. "That was probably his sport, even more than football," Stagnitta said. "And I think it rubbed off on Stephen."

Stagnitta sees plenty of potential in Belichick, who began spring practice third on the depth chart at his long-pole position. But with the season less than a month away, beginning Feb. 23 against the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, Stagnitta expects Belichick to contribute early in his career. "We didn't bring him here because of his name, I'll tell you that," Rutgers' seventh-year coach said. "When you only have 38 players on your team, you don't have the luxury of keeping guys you don't feel can make a difference."

Fillipone says the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Belichick has "all the fundamentals you need as a Division I player." Stagnitta agrees, adding Belichick's physical skills are matched by his mental toughness. "You can tell Steve's had the stick in his hands for a long time, but what's really impressed us is the mental aspect of his game," Stagnitta said. "One of the biggest challenges as a freshman is the cerebral part. You have to think more, where as in high school you're just sort of reacting. We felt like Stephen had that coach's mentality, like the quarterback who can direct and lead the guys on the field. "I have a feeling that's what Stephen's going to be."

Recruiting Belichick

In recruiting, Stagnitta said coaches often sell their program to parents as much as they do their desired student-athlete. So when it came to pitching Rutgers to Bill Belichick, a man who projects a no nonsense image, Stagnitta offered no nonsense himself. "Was it different? Not the way I approached it and certainly not the way he approached it," Stagnitta said. "In a lot of ways it was helpful because since he's involved in athletics, he has an understanding not just how the recruiting process works, but he probably understands more than the average parent what the expectations are and the standard you're held to here."

Perhaps it's because Stagnitta had experience in recruiting a player with a famous father when he served as head man at Washington & Lee, a Division III school in Northern Virginia, in the early 1990s. Back then it was the son of Vice President Day Quayle and to this day Stagnitta believes he would have landed him had it not been for a veto from Washington & Lee's admissions department. "We couldn't get him in," he said.

All "p-o-t-a-t-o" jokes aside, Stagnitta said Belichick's public persona is far different than the father who simply wanted what was best for his son. "No. 1, he's not the person you see on TV. That's first and foremost," Stagnitta said. "He's supportive and just the kind of person you can talk sports with. And I think there will be times when I can use his experiences to help me."
Sure, of Rutgers' 38 lacrosse players, only Steve Belichick has a father destined for the coaches' wing of the NFL Hall of Fame. And wouldn't Stagnitta be foolish not to pick Bill Belichick's brain every now and then?

"Coaching's coaching," Stagnitta said. "There's a lot more than what you see on the field. Bill does have a lacrosse background, but his philosophy — how you handle people, how you handle certain situations — certainly speaks for itself. As a coach and someone who's trying to get better every day, certainly it's nice to have access to someone like Bill. And he's been very accessible and very open."

Jersey roots

Even before he arrived in Piscataway last August after graduating from The Rivers School in Weston, Mass., Steve Belichick was a New Jersey boy at heart. Born in Chatham Township, Morris County, he chose Rutgers, in part, because of his familiarity with the area.
"I changed schools five or six times and moved around a lot," said Belichick, sporting spiked blond hair and a No. 23 lacrosse jersey.

His father's coaching stops included the Giants, Cleveland, New England and the Jets before he started his legendary time with the Patriots in 2000. "Everywhere I've been people ask me about him," Belichick said. "It's something you get used to. I learned to deal with it, but I've just tried to be my own person."

To that end, Rutgers was just the fresh start he was looking for. He knew he'd have to answer questions about his famous dad, even take some ribbing from Jets and Giants fans on his team in the beginning. "Of course," Belichick said, smiling when asked if his teammates have made it clear which team they're supporting in the Super Bowl. "There are a lot of Giants fans on the team."

Count Fillipone among that group, and Rutgers' defensive captain says the team has done its best to verbally barrage Belichick with some good-natured ribbing. "It's been tough," Fillipone conceded, "because you can't really make fun of the Patriots this year."

The Jersey boy in Belichick understands why so many Giants fans are coming out of the woodwork — in this case, the locker room — these days. "You have to go with the hometown team," the 20-year-old Belichick said. "The Giants haven't won it in a while, but I don't have a bone in my body rooting for them."

Keith Sargeant:

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