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    Pipeline a two-way street -- Belichick, Meyer pals
    By John Tomase
    Wednesday, May 10, 2006 - Updated: 06:48 AM EST

    Bill Belichick visited the University of Florida last year to talk offense, but Gators coach Urban Meyer asked as many questions as he answered.

    For every Belichick query about Meyer’s spread formations or empty backfield sets, Meyer asked one about discipline, team building or character. Finally, Belichick stopped at the chalkboard.

    “Look,†he said. “At New England we don’t worry about those issues. All we do is win Super Bowls.â€

    Meyer has since adapted the response for his own purposes - at Florida the goal isn’t SEC titles but national championships - while starting what could be a pipeline to Foxboro.

    The Patriots selected a pair of Gators in last month’s draft - second-round wideout Chad Jackson and sixth-round linebacker Jeremy Mincey - and then signed three more to free agent contracts, including team MVP Vernell Brown, an undersized cornerback Meyer labels a Patriots kind of player.

    The two coaches have formed a friendship based on mutual respect, with Belichick incorporating Meyer’s five-wide sets into the Patriots offense and Meyer earning an inside peek at the construction of a dynasty.

    If he has gleaned anything, it’s that the Patriots do not stumble upon high-character players by accident.

    “He’s the only coach I’ve ever had come to our stadium and spend five hours with our players,†Meyer said by phone yesterday during a recruiting trip in Connecticut. “I didn’t even have that happen when I was the head coach at Utah and we had Alex Smith. But here’s coach Belichick, coach of the three-time Super Bowl champion Patriots, taking such an active interest in the character, work ethic, practice habits and family background of every player. It tells you why New England has been so successful. That’s why they don’t make mistakes, either.â€

    When Belichick called before last year’s draft, Meyer was taken aback. He had just been hired after two successful seasons at Utah, where his spread attack helped Smith become the No. 1 pick.

    Belichick intended to visit for an hour, but it turned into five.

    “I wanted to talk to him about the way he runs his team,†Meyer said. “I got some really great stuff last year and even more this year. I’m going to implement quite a bit of it, particularly as it relates to accountability and leadership. That’s what sets New England apart, when you look at guys like (Tom) Brady and (Tedy) Bruschi, the way they manage others.â€

    Meyer owns other Patriots ties. At Bowling Green, he annually opposed Dean Pees, the Pats’ defensive coordinator who was then head coach at Kent State. He’s also close with Thom McDaniels, former head coach of Ohio prep powerhouse Canton McKinley and father of Pats offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who has since returned to Gainesville to learn more about Meyer’s offense.

    It should come as no surprise that Belichick and Meyer would hit it off, given their similarities as no-nonsense coaches who value character. Meyer holds the Patriots as a model for his team.

    “I talk about the New England Patriots almost every day,†Meyer said. “Our players are genuinely excited to play for the best team in pro football.â€

    Meyer looks forward to Belichick’s next visit.

    “He’s a funny guy, but there aren’t a lot of wasted words with him,†Meyer said. “He doesn’t dance around anything. I asked a bunch of hard questions about some of the things I deal with, and he was very candid. He hits you rightbetween the eyes.

    “If I could only spend 10 minutes talking football with somebody, I’d spend them with Bill Belichick.â€

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