HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots gives a thumbs up on the field prior to Super Bowl 51 against the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots was given an unexpected Game Ball award at the NFL Combine, by the Fritz Pollard Alliance for his commitment to diversity.

The Fritz Pollard Alliance was founded in 2003 to support minority coaches. Recently- retired chairman John Wooten said Belichick deserved the award for doing “a very special job of leveling the playing field in diversity and inclusion in the NFL.” The Alliance also recognized Patriots scout Steve Cargile as the AFC Scout of the Year.

Belichick was not able to accept the award in person, as he had not arrived in Indianapolis yet. In his video message, he expressed his regret for not being around to accept the award that mean “an awful lot” to him.

Belichick said that he “was given an opportunity when there were so many other deserving and more qualified people out there” so he “always tried to give that back to others throughout my career.”

He recalled his days in Cleveland where he “learned so much from Jim Brown about diversity and about how to relate and connect with people, both players and coaches.” He added that he was “very proud of the connections that I have to this organization, and very proud of what this organization has done for so many people and for the sport of professional football.”

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