When NFL.com’s Marc Sessler was in college, he happened to be a big Cleveland Browns fan. He was a Connecticut boy that went to a midwest college to be closer to the Browns. He compared the Browns fan experience to a literal car fire that he experienced en route to a Browns game.
He also happened to be a pen pal for then-Browns head coach Bill Belichick.
Belichick was named head coach of the Browns in 1991 and Sessler matriculated to the Miami University of Ohio in 1992. Sessler took a class his freshman year called “Football Studies 101” and his final assignments was to ask a coach their philosophy. The class was supposed to be a low impact experience and the students- predominantly football players- were expected to talk to their own coaches.
Sessler shot for the moon and sent a feeler out to Belichick. Belichick answered.
“Thanks for your great support and good wishes,” Belichick writes in his response. “I admire your drive and determination and have no doubt you will do well in anything you undertake. And, for the benefit of your fellow students, I do manage to address each and every piece of correspondence that crosses my desk...eventually!”
The letter came with the Browns’ weekly schedule and some Browns “in-house marketing materials,” along with Belichick’s core philosophy:
“A club’s success comes from proper utilization of their people, diligent preparation, and a strong work ethic,” Belichick writes. “The most innovation O/D [offensive, defensive] philosophies will not be effective unless there is a total commitment from all parties concerned.”
Not only is it incredibly shocking that Belichick would respond to this letter, but the cheerfulness and openness is what takes me aback. Needless to say, Sessler got an A on his homework assignment.
Of course this isn’t where it ends. Sessler ends up sending another letter to Belichick and even ends up reaching Belichick’s administrative assistant by dialing “information (411) on the phone and getting patched through. The assistant was willing hand the phone to Belichick, but Sessler chickened out.
Belichick is often portrayed as the grumpy cat of coaches, but players often speak to his humor and intellect and how he keeps it hidden from the public. We can catch glimpses during press conferences and at the retirement celebrations of former players, but the moments are fleeting.
Belichick the Person is just as fascinating as Belichick the Coach and Belichick the General Manager, and Sessler is able to peel back the curtain.