The Patriots selected three Florida Gators in a span of four picks last week, showcasing both the college program's talent level and Belichick's strong relationship with Florida head coach Urban Meyer, which dates back to Meyer's arrival at Florida in 2005.
Belichick has had a strong presence in Gainesville, Fla., hanging out with Meyer at The Swamp and watching the Gators run through practices. Because of that, it figures to be a near-seamless transition for middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham and tight end Aaron Hernandez.
"Throughout college, I've seen [Belichick] a few times around the facility," said Spikes, who was taken with the No. 62 pick. "I know he and Coach Meyer have a great relationship. I know that [Belichick] knows pretty much everything about me. So I know what he's about, and I'm pretty sure he knows what I'm about."
Hernandez felt the same way.
"Belichick and I already have somewhat of a relationship because he's so close with Coach Meyer," the fourth-round pick said. "I've known Belichick for a while now, so I felt comfortable around him."
Belichick went on a pre-draft recruiting trip back in 2006 to Florida and wanted to meet Meyer to get some information about a crop of Gators who were eligible for the draft that year. They also discussed coaching philosophies and strategies, and it was only natural for the two brilliant minds to connect. That relationship has grown stronger ever since, with Belichick making frequent trips to Gainesville and giving speeches to the team leading up to games.
After Meyer announced in December he would take a leave of absence to focus on his health, Belichick publicly sent his well wishes during a postgame news conference at Gillette Stadium.
"I have all the respect in the world for Urban," Belichick said after the Pats' 35-7 victory against Jacksonville in Week 16. "Nobody's been better to me than he has as far as visiting Florida, and being helpful with scouting players and those kinds of things. I've had a great relationship with him. … Our thoughts and prayers are with him."
Belichick drafted two Gators in 2006 — wide receiver Chad Jackson and linebacker Jeremy Mincey — but hadn't gone back to the well until last weekend. Spikes, Cunningham and Hernandez figure to be much more productive than Jackson or Mincey ever were.
Since Meyer spent much more time with the newest trio, he was likely able to provide a much more detailed scouting report to Belichick. And in turn, Spikes, Cunningham and Hernandez will have a greater understanding of their expectations in Foxboro.
"I know they're very close and very similar," Hernandez said of the two head coaches. "They're both very strict and go by the rules, tough on their players. They both love to win, and they do win, and it's an honor to play for another coach that's a great coach and a tough one."
Spikes echoed those sentiments.
"Absolutely, without a doubt, I have a great deal of respect for Coach Belichick and his staff," Spikes said. "I know a lot of the times we did things the way they do in New England. We did things like that in Florida. Seeing the success that we had [in Florida], I pretty much know what to expect."
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