Drew Bledsoe’s high school coach stood in the Patriots’ weight room late Sunday afternoon, a very proud man. The Patriots and their quarterback, said Bledsoe’s coach, had “played a very intelligent game.”
New England “came out ready to play,” said this coaching veteran of the job the Patriots’ staff had done. “That man (Bill Parcells) had them ready to play.”
Bledsoe’s high school coach stood off to the side, a Patriots cap on his head. He had flown in from the state of Washington, and would fly the 3,000 miles back home.
“But,” he promised, “I’ll be back next Sunday.”
Bledsoe’s coach hadn’t talked to Bledsoe Sunday morning. He never does that, he said. No distractions needed or wanted so close to game time.
But the day before, he had been over to see Bledsoe at Bledsoe’s home. Bledsoe was the usual Bledsoe, no anxiety or nerves before this latest playoff game that - like future playoff games - will define his career.
“Drew maybe didn’t watch 5 minutes of the (Jacksonville-Denver) game Saturday,” said Bledsoe’s coach.
“He fell asleep on the couch.”
Bledsoe’s coach was told that Bledsoe’s first quarter against the Steelers had been one of the quarterback’s best quarters, that Bledsoe seemed crisp, composed and totally in control. Not to mention throwing two lengthy touchdown passes.
“Drew’s had some pretty good last quarters, too,” his high school coach demurred. “I mean, he’s had three or four fourth quarters this season where he’s brought the team back - Buffalo, the Jets, the Giants. Still, I don’t think you can ask for a better game than this, do you?”
Bledsoe’s coach from the past had all his numbers down. What excited him almost as much as Bledsoe’s first pass of the game, a 53-yarder to Terry Glenn, were the four times Bledsoe drew the Steelers offsides with his cadence. “Really, there were five of ‘em,” he said. Only four were accepted. A couple of them came on big third downs, too. Drew’s averaging about 3.8 of those a game.”
Bledsoe’s coach hadn’t noticed only his former player. He spoke glowingly of the New England defense, and of offensive guard Todd Rucci, he said, “Mark my words. You watch the film: Todd Rucci played at an AllPro level out there. Make sure you put Todd Rucci in your story.”
Bledsoe’s high school coach had been an offensive tackle himself, “so if you want to know where the quarterback comes from, you’ve got to meet my wife without a doubt.”
As Bledsoe’s present coach walked into the interview room, Bledsoe’s former coach was saying how he had not been overly concerned before the game about the effect - good or ill - that Bledsoe’s performance against the Steelers would have on his psyche.
“It’s when they’re in Little League that I get worried,” he said. “How they play in that game can affect their whole life. I mean, a 10- or 11-year-old boy goes out and messes up and they’re thinking, you know, bad things about themselves. Now? Drew’s a man. He’s OK whatever happens.”
Bledsoe’s former coach said he could recall yelling only once at Bledsoe in all his years of practice with him.
“I don’t believe in yelling,” he said. “There’s no money in yelling at Drew.”
Bledsoe now has a head coach and a quarterback coach and an offensive coordinator “so I almost never talk to Drew about football,” said Bledsoe’s high school coach. But there was a phone call from Bledsoe after the first Buffalo game this season, when the Patriots were 0-2 and Bledsoe was struggling.
“I just told him, ‘Be like you were in high school; you’ve got to take control of your own positives.”’ Which, of course, were Bledsoe’s arm and Bledsoe’s instincts and Bledsoe’s love for football.
What is impressive about Bledsoe, said his high school coach, “is that he’s clear enough in his mind and so very strong that 25 people can be telling him what to do and he can figure out which one of those 25 people to listen to. And he’ll take that one bit of information and he’ll put it to work for himself.”
Bill Parcells, Bledsoe’s present coach, was now talking; Bledsoe’s former coach now stopped talking, ending with, “The whole deal in our family is that your only protection is to be yourself.” Then he listened to words from Parcells and words from Bledsoe, pride oozing from him.
Bledsoe’s former high school coach? Mac Bledsoe.
Drew Bledsoe’s father.