Long before he was one of the NFL’s most successful head coaches, Bill Belichick was a high school football and lacrosse player at Philips Andover, and then at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. The Division III liberal arts school gave Belichick a strong basis, and he has remained close to his alma mater.
That includes striking up a friendship with former Wesleyan head football coach Mike Whalen, even calling him the day that Whalen officially moved in to his new offices in 2010. According to this old New Haven Register story, the two remained in close contact, to the point that Whalen eventually used Belichick for a bit of recruiting help.
With a particularly high target prospect in his sights, Whalen called on Belichick to make a phone call to speak to the player at Wesleyan, where Belichick split time as a tight end and defensive end. The Patriots coach gladly made the call, twice at that. There was just one problem: The teenager wouldn’t pick up. He was convinced it was a prank call.
Clearly, the anecdote belongs in the pantheon of great recruiting efforts gone wrong. And while Whalen didn’t disclose which recruiting target Belichick was used to call, can you even imagine being that player now, a college graduate (almost surely) in a non-football field who played Division III football but turned down a recruiting call from the most famous Division III football alum of all?
If nothing else, Wesleyan’s well-intentioned but unfortunate attempt to use their most famous athletic alum as a recruiting tool underscores the need for recruits to feel like they’re being pitched an authentic, honest experience. Clearly that’s what Whalen — who left his post after 2014 — and Belichick had in mind. It just never worked out that way.