Belichick: I am Very Proud of my Croatian Ancestry

Total Croatia News

My grandfather worked two jobs, was a gardener and butcher and fed my father, three more sons and a daughter. When I was a boy, he always talked with passion about Croatia, says the most successful NFL coach

In probably the most spectacular NFL playoff final in history, the New England Patriots achieved what no one before them did – making up a 0:21 score and in the end defeating the Atlanta Falcons in overtime with 34:28 and clinching their fifth title, Večernji List wrote on February 7, 2017.

Atlanta had a halftime advantage of 21:3 and in the middle of the third quarter increased the lead to what seemed unattainable 28:3. No one in the history of American football recovered from such a position. And then came a miraculous reversal… The Patriots’ hero was Tom Brady, with a record 466 yards in the game.

The Patriots’ win was celebrated in Croatia as well, especially in Draganići village near Karlovac in the Croatian highlands, the family origin of Patriots coach Bill Belichick. This is the fifth Super Bowl win for Belichick, which makes him the most successful coach of American football in history. His grandfather and grandmother Ivan Biličić and Marija Barković emigrated to the United States in 1897.

“My grandfather Ivan and grandmother Marija, who changed her name to Mary on arrival to the US, left Draganići for America. They settled in Monsessen near Pittsburgh. Grandfather never completed school, but spoke six languages. He was a gardener and butcher and put food on the table for my father, another three sons and a daughter. He always spoke of Croatia, but as a boy I wasn’t too interested,” recalls Bill Belichick.

Unlike Bill, his father was closely tied to the homeland of his father. Still, he changed the last name Biličić to Belichick.

“Father was very close to the Croatian community in Pennsylvania, his first cousin visited many times the villages we came from. When he married my mother in the Immigrant Centre, they suggested to change his name to Belichick which he did,” said Bill and added: “I am very proud of our Croatian history. I had the opportunity to visit this beautiful land and am proud of my heritage.”

The expert with Croatian roots is already the most successful coach in NFL history with 26 points in playoffs, trailed by Tom Landry with 20. He was named coach of the year three times, in 2003, 2007 and 2010, this was his record seventh time with a team in the finals (Don Shula is second with six), and is now a record holder with five titles. He inherited the love of American football from his father Steve, who played for the Detroit Lions and spent 33 years as an assistant coach and scout for the American Naval Academy.

“My father collected books on American football. When I was in my early 20s, I joined him in growing this collection and began to take interest in American football,” said Bill Belichick.

The collection is kept today in the Naval Academy Alliance where his father is famous.

“Father and I always said we would make those books available to others. It was his great wish and I made it happen,” concluded Bill.

In the Super Bowl finals Croatia had another player with Croatia roots in the winning team. Patriots player Ron Ninkovich also stems from Croatia. However, he’s not certain exactly from where, but it doesn’t matter.

“I once asked my grandmother and grandfather where they came from. Since I don’t speak Croatian, I soon forgot what they answered. But after seeing Dubrovnik named one of the five most beautiful places on Earth, I decided to say I was from Dubrovnik,” said Ninkovich.


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