- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 19, 2017

During a New Hampshire campaign rally in November, Donald Trump read aloud a note from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The letter praised Trump for his leadership and toughness.

Months later, Trump was congratulating Belichick for his.

The admiration between Trump and Belichick extended to the White House Wednesday as the president honored the Patriots for their Super Bowl LI 34-28 overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Trump congratulated New England on its dramatic 25-point comeback, drawing parallels between his 2016 election and the Super Bowl, saying both he and the Patriots overcame steep odds.

“Whether you’re trying to win a Super Bowl or trying to rebuild the country, as coach Bill Belichick would say, ‘There are no days off,’” Trump said.

Trump remembered, after receiving Belichick’s letter, asking the legendary coach if he could share the contents publicly.

According to Trump, Belichick asked to write another version for the then-candidate to use. Trump said he feared the new copy would be toned down.

“And you know what he did? He toned it way up,” Trump said. “It was much better. He made it the greatest letter. I did very well in that state. Thank you.”

Trump singled out the Super Bowl contributions of specific Patriots, from receiver Danny Amendola’s fourth-down conversion to wideout Julian Edelman’s fourth-quarter heroics. He also highlighted receiver Matt Slater’s community work and long-snapper Joe Cardona’s military service.

The Patriots presented the the nation’s 45th president with a No.45 jersey with his last name, along with a Patriots helmet from Super Bowl LI.

The team’s all-world tight end, Rob Gronkowski, missed the Super Bowl in Houston due to injury, but he made his presence felt Wednesday in the White House.

The larger-than-life Gronkowski, as famous for his off-the-field antics as he is for his on-field exploits, popped into the afternoon White House press briefing and asked Sean Spicer if he needed any help.

“I think I got this, but thank you,” Trump’s press secretary said with a smile, creating a lighter moment in a briefing room that has seen some contentious moments in recent weeks between Spicer and the White House press corps.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who spent months fending off questions about his friendship with the president after he was spotted in 2015 with a Trump hat in his locker, skipped the Washington trip, citing family matters.

At least four Patriots said earlier they would boycott the White House ceremony because of Trump policies.

Team owner Robert Kraft, another of Trump’s Patriots friends (he donated $1 million to the president’s inaugural committee), discussed the mental toughness required to win both championships and presidential elections.

Trump had praise for both Belichick and Kraft, comparing Kraft and the Patriots to the Yankees dynasty under owner George Steinbrenner.

“This Super Bowl win was a complete team effort,” Trump said. “That’s the beauty in what they do — they win as a team.”

The Patriots’ White House visit came the same day news broke that imprisoned former New England tight end Aaron Hernandez had committed suicide. Hernandez was serving a life sentence for the murder of his friend Odin Lloyd.

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