Why Patriots Pro Football Hall Of Fame Trip Meant So Much To Bill Belichick

Before landing in Detroit for their week of joint practices, the New England Patriots took a quick detour.

The destination: Canton, Ohio, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Patriots toured the nation’s preeminent football shrine Sunday — a field trip dreamed up by head coach Bill Belichick to educate his players on the history of the game.

Belichick, who jumps at any opportunity to share his knowledge of and appreciation for football history, spent the entire weekend in Canton, arriving early to attend former Patriots cornerback Ty Law’s induction ceremony.

Asked about the trip before Monday’s joint practice, Belichick spoke glowingly about the Hall and its various exhibits for nearly four minutes.

“I actually spent a couple days there because I went over Saturday night for Ty’s induction,” Belichick said. “As always, the Hall of Fame was awesome. From (Hall of Fame president) David Baker all the way down to all the people we interacted with, which I want to say was practically everybody there — their research people, their archives, the people that showed us around and answered questions. It was a great experience.

“Because I was there a little longer, I got to see a lot of things maybe that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Certainly, it was great to see Ty and all of the people that came to support him, as well as the other guys that were there. Kevin (Mawae), who was with the Jets when I was there of course, and Gil Brandt, who I’ve had a long relationship with, and Ed Reed, who’s killed us so many times, but we can put a smile on our face now because we don’t have to deal with him on the field. So it was great to see all of those people, and Tony (Gonzalez) as well. That’s another guy that killed us when we didn’t double-cover him, which was almost every play we doubled him.

“But it was great. I think our team appreciated it.”

Belichick was particularly taken by the way the Hall of Fame celebrates everyone who has passed through the NFL, not just league’s elite players. That long, long list includes Belichick’s father, Steve, who’s represented in the Hall despite playing just one NFL season (for the Lions way back in 1941).

“I think one of the great things about the Hall of Fame that they pointed out to us multiple times, which I’m not sure I fully understood, (is that) the Hall of Fame really is a Hall of Fame for every NFL player, not just the enshrinees and the ones with the busts,” Belichick said. “Literally, I could go to 1941, go to 1941 Lions and pull up my dad and see the team picture and see an article about him and so forth.

“Their objective — and I’d say they’ve achieved it — is so that every family member, son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter, or whoever could actually go there, or the player themselves could actually go there and not just see their name, but see something about the person. Pictures, articles, as well as stats or whatever the case may be, regardless if the player played one year or 20 years in the league.

“They’ve done a great job preserving the history of the game. When only 1 percent of their memorabilia and collection is on display, then you realize the enormity of what they have and how great and how special it is. To see Red Grange’s shoulder pads, Joe Namath’s cape and Johnny Unitas’ high-top shoes, it’s just thrilling, it really is, to put it all in one place. It was great.”