Among the keepsakes in Dale Stram’s home in Mandeville, La., is a gift from New England coach Bill Belichick: a framed picture of himself inscribed with an homage to Stram’s father, Hank, the legendary Chiefs coach and football trailblazer.
Hank Stram, the son said during a 2016 visit, had thought of Belichick’s father, Steve, longtime football coach at the U.S. Naval Academy, as being “unbelievably great” at his job.
The inscription indicated the feeling was reciprocated from Bill Belichick to the elder Stram.
So much so that the publicly stoic Belichick actually used exclamation points twice as he gushed about Stram.
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“Dale, our football families are inter-connected all the way back to our dads — Great Lakes vs. Purdue in the mid-’40s. Hank was a great coach — a pioneer in the AFL, an innovator and a showman with flair to spare! Hanks’ involvement in football for decades made our game better!
“All the best to the Stram family.”
On Tuesday, Belichick elaborated on the background of the seemingly improbable relationship.
“My father and Hank were friends going back to the 1940s,” Belichick said. “They stayed in touch through the years, and Hank offered my dad a job with the Texans and later with the Chiefs, but my dad stayed in Annapolis at the Naval Academy.
“My dad did some personnel reports for the Chiefs in the 1960s and 1970s, when college scouting was a lot less sophisticated than it is today. In those days, NFL teams only had a couple of college scouts and most colleges only had one copy of their game film to send out, so getting college coaches to ‘grade’ for a pro team was not uncommon — and my dad and the Chiefs had that arrangement.
“As I said in the inscription, Hank was an innovator and he had an energetic personality on the sideline. He had good players and good teams that consistently played for championships. He was always very professional and was a good ‘game day’ coach.”
As for his sentiments about Stram, Belichick added, “I think the inscription pretty much says it all.”