Bill Belichick is nothing if not elusive, but there are still some great stories out there about the Patriots Head Coach at the combine; his 1989 interview with Deion Sanders and his 2019 donation to the RunRichRun charity drive among the more notable ones.
I can promise you that the Keller Williams Family Reunion is the last place I’d expect to learn a new Combine Bill story. But as I sat in a breakout session titled Go for Growth with Sports and Entertainment, that’s exactly what I got. About 40 minutes into the panel D.C. area agent Jordan Stuart brought up a client of his, newly-signed Jets wide receiver Jehu Chesson.
Jehu Chesson was born in Liberia but moved to the St. Louis area around age 5. A recruit out of Ladue Horton Watkins High School, Chesson went on to play for the University of Michigan after initially redshirting his freshman year. During the 2017 NFL Combine, Chesson was interviewed by the New England Patriots, and we got to hear a bit about that:
I’m sitting in an interview room, Bill Belichick’s there, Kraft’s there… everybody’s in there right? And Bill Belichick tells me to shake- I go and shake the hand of everybody in there and he’s like, “Okay now name four people you just met.” And then I was like… so I named him, I named Kraft, and then he’s like, “No, no, no. We don’t count. Name four other people you met just now.” And so I couldn’t name them and he’s like, “You just met these people how come you can’t name them?”
We all chuckled, and the facilitator and Jehu went back and forth a bit about the start of his interview. A bit of recognizable “Patriot Way” showing through Bill in that moment.
Jehu went on to tell us about the rest of his interview, and how his evaluation with the Pats stood out from other teams. “Then they proceed to put on the film right? Normally it’s all your plays you made in college, whatever it is. With me they were saying, ‘Oh he’s a physical receiver, he’s not afraid to block, he’s a deep threat.’ So with me, they literally put on all my low lights ever since my freshman year of college. Every dropped pass, every missed assignment, every loaf.”
Chesson tells us a scout stopped him after the interview and told him that was the best he’d seen a guy perform against Bill’s attempts to expose him. After listening to Jehu Chesson speak on everything from football to sitting in on New York board meetings, I can confidently say it’s because Jehu embodies a lot of what the general public knows as the Patriot Way. He’s composed, he’s hard working, and he’s thoughtful. It was amazing to hear from industry professionals and gain an insight on what it’s like to work with successful athletes, but Chesson’s insight was definitely more important to me.
We often forget that athletes are people first. Sure, their performance is the commodity of an industry that relies on selling these people that do what the average person can’t. They’re athletically gifted and we all know it. But sometimes we put them on pedestals and assume they need to be treated differently than everyone else. At the end of the day, they’re not that much different than you and I. They’re more than their position, and they deserve for us to remember that.
I spoke to Jehu after the panel finished to ask his permission to share his story, and of course snap a picture. He was kind enough to let me steal his interaction with Bill Belichick for a unique angle, and while I know that’s what most Pats fans will care about, I want to leave you all with the part of Jehu Chesson’s story that I cared about. When Jehu was talking about trying to regroup after BB’s handshake request, he said this: “You never rise to the occasion, you sink to your level of training.” He later went on to elaborate, saying that when we’re put in uncomfortable situations or pushed to our limits, we seldom perform better than when we’re comfortable. More often than not, you revert back to the level of performance you most commonly function at. But to aspire to work so hard that you not only elevate your highest level of play, but the level of play you find yourself at during complete exhaustion? That’s admirable. THAT’S the Patriot Way. And that’s something we can all aspire to.