Jalen Mills was starstruck when he first met his new head coach.
Telling the story during his introductory press conference, Mills recalled how he met Bill Belichick shortly after joining the New England Patriots on a four-year, $24 million free agency deal. The defensive back, who spent the first five years of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles, revealed that he was “freaking out” when running into Belichick at the Gillette Stadium cafeteria.
“He’s just talking to me, telling me, ‘Happy to have you. Glad for you to be here. I’m excited for you to be here.’ And I literally turned my back to ho him and screamed out loud. ‘This is Coach Belichick. This is…’ Excuse my language, but I’m like, ‘This is f—king Coach Belichick!’ Like, I screamed it loud,” Mills said at the time.
A lot has happened since that first meeting.
The Patriots kicked off their offseason program, and the full coaching staff joined the process last week. All in all, Mills has gotten to spend plenty of time in Belichick’s presence — either through virtual meeting or on-field workouts.
So, has he finally gotten used to him being his coach?
“No, not yet,” Mills admitted during a conference call on Thursday.
Mills spoke to the media after the Patriots’ third organized team activity. One of 66 players spotted at the voluntary session, the 27-year-old worked primarily with his position groups and their respective coaches — cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino and safeties coach, Brian Belichick, the son of New England’s head coach.
“Super, super smart guys, both of them,” Mills said. “Whether it’s Coach B or Coach Mike, they’re super helpful. I can call either one of them at any time. I think I called Coach Mike one time it was like 8 o’clock at night. He was on his way home at the facility. I had a question on my iPad, and he helped me out. With Coach B, I ask him a lot of questions as well because he knows the system in and out.
“With those guys, they’ve definitely been helpful as far as my transition and trying to learn this new defense.”
Working with Pellegrino and the younger Belichick has helped Mills in his transition to the New England system. When it comes to the head coach, however, he remains a fanboy.
“I think it was two days ago, we were in a walkthrough and going over certain defensive calls. I was working a certain technique, and he was standing right next to me. And he kind of like started coaching me up,” Mills recalled.
“I was kind of like — in my mind, of course, I was taking the coaching — but then after when I went to the sideline it was kind of like the same thing. I was like, ‘This dude, like, Coach Bill is coaching me.’ It’s crazy to me. But I think that’s a great feeling, though. That’s me wanting to give him everything that I have. At the end of the day, he didn’t have to do that. That’s his job, but he’s a head coach. That’s what he has assistants for. I definitely appreciate it.”
While it remains to be seen what Belichick has in mind for Mills, it would not be a surprise if he kept the role he was given in Philadelphia last year: Mills served as a jack of all trades and regularly moved between cornerback and safety alignments.
Knowing how much Belichick values versatility, Mills certainly appears to be a player well-suited for his style of defense.