Notebook: Pasadena Poly’s McGrail fits the Bill

MEETING OF THE MINDS: Pasadena Poly football coach Brendan McGrail, right, has had some interesting experiences, including a relationship with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
Staff file photo by Keith Birmingham

By Steve Ramirez, SGVN

Brendan McGrail, who is in his ninth season at Pasadena Poly, has had some unusual experiences coaching football.
They include coaching former NFL All-Pro running back Brian Westbrook while McGrail was an assistant at DeMatha Catholic High School near Washington, D.C., and an association he developed with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick as an assistant at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.
He recalled his story about Belichick during last week’s Pasadena Quarterbacks Luncheon. McGrail, a young assistant at the time, also was in charge of putting together a Phillips Academy recruiting brochure. Learning that Belichick was an alumnus of the school, McGrail attempted to get a quote from the then New York Jets’ defensive coordinator.
“I told the principal that I would really like to get a Bill Belichick quote for the brochure,” McGrail recalled. “I, being a high school football coach myself, thought really highly of him and thought it would be neat.”
He attempted to call Belichick and, expecting to get the coach’s secretary on the line, instead heard a male voice saying `Yeah.’
“It was a real deep voice (saying), `Yeah,’ ” McGrail said. “I said, `Can I speak to coach Belicheck?’ The voice said, `Speaking.’
“He sounded exactly like the intimidating person I’ve known as a football fan, so I decided to get my question out as quickly as possible. He said, `Whoa! Slow down, tell me what you need.’ ”

McGrail explained his predicament. Belichick told him he was busy with the week’s gameplan, so he asked him if he could write something out, send it to him and he’ll either approve it or change it.
“That was a big deal for me, being a football fan and a young coach,” McGrail said. “I got to be a ghost writer and create this Bill Belichick quote. I thought about the words that were important to him and typed it up.”
He sent it out, and within five minutes Belichick called back with his response.
” `I love that quote,’ ” Belichick said. ” `You can definitely use that.’ ”
McGrail also saw another side of Belichick, who after getting the New England Patriots job in 2000 provided the Phillips program a lot of support.
“I got to know him during my four years (at Phillips),” McGrail said. “He’s very different from the persona you see on TV. I think he likes that `evil genius’ persona. But he’s very personable in small groups.”
McGrail now is leading a solid program at Pasadena Poly, which is 3-0 and ranked No. 6 in the CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division. The Panthers host Villanova Prep on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“We’re quite young,” McGrail said. “We have 26 players, and have nine sophomores and two freshmen, so we’re young and growing.
“With that age, we have to rely on our seniors more to lead us, and that’s been getting the job done.”
Lauren Joseph, a cross country runner from Mayfield, is one of 14 student-athletes honored with the CIF-SS Champions for Character award.
Pasadena Poly is honored as a school.
The CIF-SS will host its ninth annual Jim Staunton Champions for Character dinner on Oct. 1 at the Queen Mary in Long Beach.

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