He Won A Super Bowl And Then Left Football For The 101st Airborne Division: The Incredible True Story Of Jake Bequette
Foxborough-07/26/12. The New England Patriots held their first open practice at the practice field at Gillette Stadium. Coach Bill Belichick gives some pointers to Jake Bequette. Boston Globe staff Photo by John Tlumacki(sports)
John Tlumacki/Getty Images

Jake Bequette has a story unlike any other. From playing with Tom Brady on Super Bowl winning teams, to joining the famed 101st Airborne Division, his life has been one of service, sacrifice, and devotion.

The Daily Wire sat down with the former New England Patriot and United States Army veteran to discuss his time in the NFL, his transition into the military, and the woke Left’s influence in sports

DAILY WIRE: I want to start with your story a little bit. I think a lot of our viewers are interested in professional players and how they got to that point. So for you, were you a big recruit coming out of high school in Arkansas?

JAKE BEQUETTE: Not at all. I was very fortunate and very blessed to be able to receive a scholarship offer from the University of Arkansas. I come from a bit of a Razorback legacy. My grandfather, dad and uncle all played football at the University of Arkansas before me. But by no means was I a big time recruit. When I got a scholarship offer from Houston Nutt (former coach at Arkansas) in 2006, I accepted it immediately. I didn’t want him to change his mind and resend it.

DW: You were drafted by the New England Patriots out of college. What was that like for you to be drafted by an organization with such a winning pedigree?

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BEQUETTE: It was amazing.I’ll never forget receiving the call from Mr. Kraft and coach Belichick on draft night in 2012. And that was one of the best nights of my life with my family, my grandparents right here in Little Rock, Arkansas. And just to go to such a storied and amazing championship dynasty, that the New England Patriots are. I learned so much while I was there for those four years. It’s beyond football, beyond the on the field of stuff. It was the lessons of leadership, the lessons of organizational management, how coach Belichick and Mr. Kraft and the staff in New England behave. It’s no accident that year in year out over decades, they put together winning teams and championship teams. And those lessons of leadership that I learned from him, I’ll carry on for the rest of my life.

DW: When you talk about Tom Brady, we’ve watched him for so long now and he continues to win championships. Do you have anything about Brady that you saw when you were in New England as far as the kind of energy and dedication he brings to the practice field? 

BEQUETTE: Yeah, it started on my first day. What I always tell people is that Tom Brady’s value to a team goes far beyond his tactical ability, if you will, as a quarterback. I remember my first ever team meeting we had, it was back in April or May of 2012, my rookie season. It was the first day of spring mini camp and the whole team was in the film room and coach Belichick was kind of going over his expectations for the team and probably given the same speech that he had given 20 times that Tom Brady had heard 20 times at the beginning of a football season or the beginning of that offseason. But I remember Tom Brady, his seat in the team meeting room was front row center. And I remember looking down for my seat kind of in the back on the right, he was kind of hunched over in his chair, and just scribbling furiously, every word that coach Belichick was saying. He was hanging on every word. He was trying to dissect what Coach Belichick expectations were, he was just trying to glean any bit of insight or wisdom from what Coach Belichick was saying. And it was like that every single meeting — that attention to detail. And I think the takeaway was clear to everyone sitting in that room, everyone behind or around Tom Brady. And they can see coach Belichick speaking, but they can also see Tom, just taking notes and being engaged. And it’s just that unspoken leadership that really set the tone and the tempo for every one of the 53 guys on the roster. And I think that’s one of the reasons why that success that surrounded Brady in New England, transferred with him to Tampa Bay.

DW: A couple questions on Belichick? Obviously, he’s a little bit of a dry guy, a little ornery if you will. Is he like that in real life? Or is that a bit of a show for the media?

BEQUETTE: It’s a little bit of both. He does actually have a really good sense of humor. It’s a very dry sense of humor. But he’s actually quite self deprecating and can make fun of himself. He can loosen up a little bit behind the scenes and make guys laugh. But ultimately, he has that entire locker room, that entire organization marching to the beat of the same drum. And it’s the tone that he sets for that organization. And even though there is a bit of levity, and there is some humor, it’s all business around there. And there’s a reason why that team has put up, you know, 10 and 12 wins seasons, division championships almost every single season.

DW: Let’s talk about that about your transition after football. For a lot of athletes, it can be difficult. Your entire life has revolved around sports. Was it difficult for you to leave the game? Did you kind of know what you were trying to do after sports?

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 02: Defensive end Jake Bequette #91 of the New England Patriots looks on during a NFL game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on December 2, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

BEQUETTE: Well, I’ve been very blessed. It is difficult for an athlete to turn the page, to close that chapter of his life. But I’ve been very blessed and fortunate to have two parents my entire life who always told me — the lesson that my dad had learned himself in his brief professional football career — that professional football is the greatest temp job you’re ever going to have. You’ve always got to be preparing for that next step. You can pour your heart and soul and everything into your athletic career, but you’ve got to have the realization that even if you accomplish all of your wildest dreams, and have a 10 to 12 year professional sports career, you’re still gonna be walking away as a relatively young man. You get your whole life ahead of you. So I always had that expectation from the first day that I walked on campus at the University of Arkansas and the first day that I walked into the Patriots facility in Foxborough.  I was like ‘hey, this could be over tomorrow.’ You’re always one play away in the NFL. And I had some injuries there in my last couple of seasons. The injury bug finally bit me after a long career where I’ve been mostly healthy. But luckily I was prepared to take that next step. And I was ready to move on with my head held on.

DW: The army then was that the next step for you? Was that something you had thought about throughout your career and your childhood? How did you come to that decision?

BEQUETTE: I can’t pinpoint an exact day or a moment where I felt the call, I’ve always, been a student of history and have always loved to read biographies and historical narratives about some of the great soldiers and statesmen in our history. And I’ve always admired people who have military service as a part of their life’s story. In New England, we had a former Navy SEAL who was really a part of the team. He was a close personal childhood friend of one of our assistant coaches at the time, our defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia. And this former Navy SEAL came in to work with us in the offseason — hand to hand combat stuff, leverage type stuff, things that are useful on the football field. I always found myself pulling him aside and making him tell me war stories. I wanted to know what he did overseas, what the SEAL training was like, and what it was like to serve. I was surrounded by all these amazing champions in the Patriots locker room, but I felt myself more drawn to and in awe and admiration for this guy, this warrior. And I kind of resolved right there that whenever my football career was over, if I was healthy, that I was gonna serve in the military. I had some injuries at the end of my career, I took a year off and actually went to law school for a year. But I felt the call to serve and the moment that I was healthy enough to raise my right hand, that’s exactly what I did.

DW: How many years did you serve in the military? 

BEQUETTE: I served in the Army for about three and a half years. I went through infantry training. I enlisted at Fort Benning, where I went through basic training and Officer Candidate School. I commissioned as a second lieutenant in January 2018. I branched into the army infantry, trying to become an Infantry officer, which includes the Infantry Basic Officer leadership course. I graduated US Army Ranger School in October of 2018. And then I served the entirety of my active service with the 101st Airborne Division, based in Fort Campbell, Kentucky — which is an amazing unit with an incredible legacy, the “Band of Brothers.” That was my first choice, my only choice really of where I wanted to serve. I deployed to Iraq in 2019. I spent a little over five months in Iraq, and other than that, I was stateside training with 101st.

DW: Was there any correlation between football and the army? We do hear a bit about football and how it kind of has a military theme to it. Are there any similarities whatsoever?

BEQUETTE: Absolutely. So, here in SEC country — and you’ll find this out in Tennessee — the Tennessee football stadium is named after former General Neyland. As in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. He was a former Army General who then became a football coach. So, there’s some natural crossover in my mind, between the structure of football and the structure of the military. Discipline, teamwork, sacrifice, hard work. And a football career was a great preparation, both mentally and physically, for a military career. 

It’s not totally analogous. In football you’re training at the utmost elite level for short bursts. In the army it’s a lot more grit and endurance type training. It’s not as glamorous. But I really couldn’t have asked for a better preparation for the military through my college football experience, and of course my experience in New England. I have to add — Coach Belichick is a tremendous patriot. His father, Steve Belichick, was a longtime coach at the Naval Academy. He liked to have current and former military members come and speak to the team. And he really ingrained a sense of patriotism that I always admired in the New England Patriots and, hence the name, it’s hard to not be patriotic playing for the Patriots.

FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 20: Jake Bequette #66 of the New England Patriots attempts during bring down Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles during a preseason game at Gillette Stadium on August 20, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Jim Rogash/Getty Images

DW: What are your ultimate goals here moving forward? You’ve accomplished quite a bit, but I’m assuming you have a lot that you’d like to accomplish as well.

BEQUETTE: Yes. So right now I just moved home to Arkansas, where I’m born and raised. It’s great to be home. The first thing I did upon a turn to Arkansas was I started a small business Relief Fund. It’s called “The Arkansas Fund.” I tailored it after the Barstool Fund, which I’m sure you’re aware, is a nationally focused small business Relief Fund. As we all know, there are so many small businesses across the country, particularly here in the state of Arkansas that have been really struggling due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve raised well over $100,000 and we’ve made over 33 grants in less than two months to small businesses across the state of Arkansas. And I’ve been able to channel my passion and my love for this state into this small business Relief Fund. It’s been a great project. We’ve been able to extend a helping hand to a lot of mom and pop small businesses that are hurting.

DW: We had Aubrey Huff in studio last week, and he talked a bit about the amount of conservatives that are actually in Major League Baseball. Would you say it’s similar in the NFL locker room? Or is it less so than maybe Major League Baseball as far as the amount of conservatives that are in that locker room?

BEQUETTE: I’m not sure if I could put a number on it, but I think it’s more than you might suspect. We used to joke, there may be a lot of guys who come into professional sports who might have a left leaning mindset or our background, but once they see the the tax withholding from that first paycheck or that first signing bonus, it’ll make you a conservative really quick.

It’s really a shame to see what’s happened over the past five or six years since I left the game, in terms of just politics and especially leftist ideology. Coming into professional sports in particular, I think that tragically sports is one of the last institutions that unites us in this country. And it’s really a disgrace in my mind to see it torn apart by just the constant bombardment of leftist ideology from the media, and it’s permeating through those locker rooms.

DW: Major League Baseball moved the All-Star Game out of Atlanta, due to the new Georgia election law. What were your initial thoughts on that, and the fact that they actually took it away from an area that could have benefited quite a bit from all the All-Star Game festivities and moving it to Denver – which is a less diverse city – I might add.

BEQUETTE: Yeah, it was ludicrous. The losers here are the small business owners, who would have had a tremendous economic impact right there in Atlanta and the surrounding suburbs, from the All-Star Game. And it was just another attempt of virtue signaling by these pro sports leagues. The hypocrisy is extremely obvious. The 2016 election obviously happened, the MLB hosted the 2017 All Star game in Miami, and Florida has mandatory voter ID laws and fewer days of early voting than Georgia does. And you can’t even really engage in the hypocrisy because it’s just transparent virtue signaling. It was MLB’s attempt to show that they’re on the side of the Left. It really is a shame because as you said, the people who are really hurt by this are the small business owners –  a group that I’m working to help so it makes me angry.

Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers and the NBA for Sporting News.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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