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Even if you’re a hardcore New England Patriots-hater, it’s impossible to argue with Bill Belichick’s NFL resume. Before coming to Foxborough, the coach had made a name for himself as a skilled defensive coordinator; with the Patriots, he proved he could cut it as a head coach and general manager, too. As you might imagine, that success has made Belichick pretty wealthy, too.

While Bill Belichick now earns millions of dollars in salary per season, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, his first football gig paid him $25 per week as an apprentice.

Bill Belichick has become a living NFL legend

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While star players may get most of the headlines, football fans still speak of legendary coaches like Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry with reverence. Bill Belichick might not be a beloved figure around the league, he’s undeniably a living legend.

After his college career ended, Belichick turned to coaching. He broke into the professional game with the Baltimore Colts; he then moved on to the Detroit Lions organization before joining the Denver Broncos.

In 1979, the coach made another move and landed with the New York Giants. He entered the organization as a special teams coach and defensive assistant, but promptly worked his way through the ranks; by 1985, he became the club’s defensive coordinator. Working with Lawrence Taylor, Belichick and the Giants lifted two Lombardi Trophies.

That success helped Belichick land the Cleveland Browns head coaching job, although he didn’t find much success in Ohio. After a brief spell in New England and a few seasons with the New York Jets, he moved to Foxborough to take over as the Patriots head coach. From there, the rest is history.

Earning $25 a week as a football apprentice

These days, Bill Belichick is one of the biggest names in football. When he first entered the professional ranks, however, he was barely earning a few dollars a day.

Coming out of Wesleyan, Belichick’s college coach recommended the young man to Colts coach Ted Marchibroda. That was enough to get Belichick in the door for an interview.

“Bill Belichick interviewed with Marchibroda and told him he wanted to work 14, 16 hours a day, and that he’d do anything his boss asked of him,” Ian O’Connor wrote in, “Belichick,” according to CNBC. “Marchibroda thought the kid sounded sincere enough and took him up on it.”

From there, Belichick set about doing whatever the team needed, which “involved everything from analyzing game film to driving the coaches around and working the Xerox machine.” While he was originally working as an unpaid apprentice, his efforts paid off and he earned a raise. “The Colts general manager offered to pay him $25 a week, or $21.22 after taxes, O’Connor wrote.”

By the end of the season, Belichick was making $50 a week; he reportedly asked for a $4,000 salary and a car heading into the following campaign. The Colts weren’t interested, but the Detroit Lions stole him away with an offer of $10,000,” and “a new Thunderbird.”

These days, Bill Belichick’ finances are a bit different

It goes without saying that Bill Belichick isn’t working for peanuts anymore. When you’re a living legend, you have a bit more bargaining power.

While NFL teams don’t usually release the terms of their coach’s contracts, it’s been reported that Belichick earns around $12.5 million per season with the New England Patriots. Unsurprisingly, given his track record, he’s the highest-paid coach in the league.

At the end of the day, though, Bill Belichick isn’t in it for the money. As his time as an unpaid Colts apprentice demonstrated, he’s coaching because he loves the game of football and, at the end of the day, winning games.

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