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Kelly is a football guy, of course, but when Bill Belichick began lining up Lombardi Trophies with the New England Patriots and cementing his reputation as football's best coach, Kelly was working at Division II Grand Valley State in Michigan. He lived a million rungs down the career ladder. Even as Kelly climbed – and Belichick held relationships with other college coaches – they never met until last February when both participated in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in California.
A fast friendship was formed, part based on football, part on golf and part on the passion shared by Kelly's wife, Paqui, and Belichick's girlfriend, Linda Holliday, for raising money in the fight against breast cancer. The Kellys quickly offered support to some charity events back in Boston. And Belichick said he'd come to South Bend for a couple of days in March to scout some Irish draft prospects.
And that's when Kelly made a bold request of his ideal program evaluator and perhaps found his secret advantage for the 2013 season.
"I asked him if he could spend some time watching games and we could discuss," Kelly told Yahoo! Sports. Belichick quickly agreed, and suddenly Notre Dame was about to get an overhaul from someone who most certainly knew what he was talking about.
For Belichick, this is the fun stuff. He was all for it.
"I just really enjoy talking football," Belichick said. "So much goes into the entire process that it's impossible to run out of things to work on – coaching, playing, practice, preparation, scouting, technology, how the whole structure fits together."