FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -– Patriots rookie defensive end Justin Francis enjoyed a reunion on the practice field on Friday afternoon with former Rutgers teammate Alex Silvestro (now a Patriots first-year defensive end) during day one of the team’s rookie minicamp.
But that wasn’t the only familiar face Francis crossed paths with, as he and Steve Belichick -– who was recently named a coaching assistant on his father’s staff –- played on the Scarlet Knights football team during the 2011 season.
Belichick, a four-year letterman on the lacrosse field at Rutgers, joined the football program as a long snapper last season with a leftover year of NCAA eligibility he had prior to his graduation.
It didn’t take long for the son of a coach to make his influence felt among his new teammates, as Francis told reporters during a media session at Gillette Stadium on Saturday afternoon, “He did great at our program too. He helped us as much as he could. That’s pretty much what he was there for, to help the club and the team.”
The two are now embarking on a different journey together, one that involves Francis viewing Belichick as not just a friend, but a boss as well.
“I do actually, and it’s kind of weird. But like I said, he’s a good friend and I know he’s never going to direct me in the wrong path or anything," Francis said. "I take than and I keep that. I always respect him. I respect his job and I respect him as a friend as well.”
Their friendship dates back to Francis’ sophomore year at Rutgers, during which they met in a math class they took together. He described the humorous start to their relationship.
“I had a math class, doing horrible in math. Steve’s next to me on his MacBook. I’m like, ‘You’re Coach Belichick’s son, and I suck at math, so don’t judge,’’ Francis declared with a chuckle. “We laughed about it and we’ve been friends ever since then. It’s been a good little journey.”
In his brief stay in New England, Francis says has yet to sit down and work with the younger Belichick, but acknowledged that’s it been helpful to have Steve around to keep each other's spirits up.
He admits that he didn’t think that Steve was planning a post-college career in coaching, but has no trouble seeing similarities between him and his father.
“Yeah, a lot. Steve’s a nice and steady guy. His dad is the same way. Coach is the same way. He’s stern. Steve’s the same way," Francis said. "They both have a great way of dealing with things and they’re very smart. Can’t do nothing but respect that.”