Belichick offers deep tribute to former Niners owner DeBartolo

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What seemed a passing inquiry on a conference call struck a deep vein of admiration on Wednesday.

Bill Belichick, asked by 49ers media about former San Francisco owner Eddie DeBartolo, who will be honored at halftime of Sunday’s game with the Patriots, revealed a long relationship and admiration for the newly enshrined Pro Football Hall of Famer.

“Eddie and I actually go back a long way. I go back even further with his wife [Candy] when I was a kid,” Belichick explained. “I grew up, my parents, my dad grew up in Struthers [Ohio] and her family, her parents were great friends of my grandparents and they honestly had a lot to do with the opportunity that my dad and ultimately our family received. I knew Eddie through her.”

Belichick then recalled the number of times he faced DeBartolo during the 23-year ownership run DeBartolo had with the Niners.  
“I have tremendous respect for Eddie,” said Belichick. “You know, we competed against them for so many years when I was with the Giants in the NFC. Every game was a monster game, playoff games, the conference games. They were always great competition. I have so much respect for Eddie, the organization that he built with the 49ers. I think his selection into the Hall of Fame is long overdue, but glad that he received the recognition that I certainly feel he deserved. I regret that I wasn’t able to be at the induction myself this year. I just couldn't work it out on my schedule, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for him.”

Belichick, speaking off-the-cuff, went on to credit DeBartolo for the support he’s given for “friends, friends that go back with him all the way to high school and grade school and all of that, the support that he's shown for the Youngstown-Poland [Ohio] community. He's been a great friend. I've sought his advice many times. He's always been very candid, open and helpful.”

Belichick also revealed he longed to work for DeBartolo.

“I just couldn't say enough great things about Eddie. I wish that I had the opportunity to work for him, although I had a great experience with the Giants. I mean I don't regret anything that happened. I'm not saying that,” he cautioned. “But he was truly one of the great owners that the league has had. The things that he and Coach [Bill] Walsh did organizationally was so far ahead of their time. Just, I mean, they were tremendous.

“I look forward to seeing him this weekend and personally being able to congratulate him,” Belichick concluded. “I've talked to him on the phone a couple of times since his selection but it’ll be good to see him personally. I have tremendous respect for him. I couldn’t really put it into words. It goes beyond that, and I'll be forever grateful, as will my grandparents and father and his family for what his wife and her family did for ours.”
 

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