Bill Belichick made history winning five Super Bowls, but now he’s narrating history by lending his voice to a World War II film by a University of Rhode Island graduate.
The New England Patriots’ coach will narrate a documentary called “D-Day Over Normandy,” a film funded by URI alumnus Tim Gray and his World War II Foundation.
Belichick is a natural for the film, says Gray. He’s a long-time supporter of the foundation, a history buff and the son of a World War II veteran, Steve Belichick, who served in Europe and the Pacific. Belichick agreed to help out a year ago, but Gray says he put off making a public announcement because the coach was “a little busy” winning football games.
“I know he feels that time in history is important. Also, since his dad served, narrating is kind of a tribute to his father as well,” says Gray. “I realize he’s not Morgan Freeman when it comes to narration style, but he is someone who believes that our work is important, and he is, after all, the greatest coach in the history of the NFL. If Vince Lombardi were still around I’m sure he’d be involved in our mission, too. These are great men who understand they are who they are because of what Americans accomplished in far off places between 1941 and 1945.”
The one-hour film is unique, says Gray, because it uses drone shots of well-known sites in the June 6, 1944 assault to liberate Europe. “The result is some of the most spectacular scenes of the landing beaches ever seen,” says Gray.
The sites include Utah Beach, Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, Vierville-sur-Mer, Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer and The Normandy American Cemetery. Gray will interview veterans who fought at those locations about their experiences.
Belichick grew up in Annapolis, Md., where his father coached football at the United States Naval Academy. Gray says that the coach appreciates the dedication, courage and teamwork of the military, especially the sailors who fought on D-Day and in the Pacific theater.
The coach joins a growing number of celebrities who have volunteered their time to the project. Actor Tom Selleck, star of CBS’ Blue Blood, narrated Gray’s “Remember Pearl Harbor,” which aired last year, and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling and actor Tom Hanks have contributed to the organization.
A Kingston native, Gray graduated from URI in 1989 with a degree in journalism. He worked for years as a sports anchor at Channel 10, switching to filmmaking in 2005 to focus on World War II, a topic that has intrigued him since childhood.
So far, Gray has produced 17 other films through his foundation, the only organization in the country that, with private contributions, makes films about veterans and donates the movies to American Public Television and its PBS affiliates throughout the world.
Back in 2006, Gray mailed Belichick a copy of his first film. He responded with a note saying how much he liked it. After those kind words, Gray sent Belichick the other films to review before they aired.
“He’s watched all 17 of our films,” says Gray. “He sends me hand-written notes saying great job on this and that. He’s also one of the very few who responds to the majority of my emails, which is saying something considering how busy he is. I joke with my wife that it’s now to the point where we exchange Christmas cards with Bill Belichick. It’s pretty amazing.”
Gray says he’s grateful for the support from Belichick and other celebrities.
“I try to reach out to people who care about that time in history and the men and women who fought and helped win World War II,” says Gray. “Whether it’s Bill, Tom Selleck, Matthew Broderick, Dan Aykroyd, Fred Smith at Fed Ex or Damian Lewis, these are all well-known people who care about that generation and what they did. They’re honored to be involved in helping to tell the veterans’ stories.”
He says Belichick and Bob Kraft, owner of the Patriots, have welcomed veterans featured in the foundation’s films to Gillette Stadium for private meetings. Of the 16 million veterans who fought in the war, fewer than a million are left.
“Bottom line: “Bill is a good guy who believes in the work of our foundation,” says Gray. “This is something new for him—he has never narrated a documentary before—but he’s doing it for all the right reasons: patriotism.”
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