The NFL draft had a breakout star last week, a four-legged beast with big ears and eyes of different colors.

Nike Belichick has gotten national attention before, but nothing like what happened on the second day of the draft, televised live from the homes of coaches, players and executives during the novel coronavirus pandemic. His big moment came when the camera zeroed in on the Nantucket dining room of New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick. As the coach stepped out of the frame, an empty chair sat facing two laptops on the table, with an obedient, very good dog sitting at attention in another chair, with the scene labeled “Bill Belichick, Head Coach” on America’s screens.

It was hilarious, the kind of sneaky snark Belichick occasionally appears to delight in pulling off. But just how did it happen? Linda Holliday, Belichick’s longtime girlfriend, explained.

“Well, the funny thing was, you know, all of us are doing the draft from home. And Nantucket has very strict rules about who is coming to the island,” Holliday said on “The Adam Schefter Podcast.” “So I worked with Patriots IT people and said, ‘Teach me. I’ll do lighting. I’ll do IT. I’ll do it all.

“So I’m doing lighting, and next thing I know Bill had a couple of treats that were left over near his laptop and he stepped away from the table. And all of a sudden he looks and he goes, ‘Look, look at the table,’ and there Nike was just sitting there waiting patiently. And he knew his treats were there, so that’s what prompted him getting up to the table, and he was just waiting patiently for the word to take his treats.”

The Alaskan Klee Kai dog, who has his own Instagram account, was suddenly a bona fide star.

“I really had no clue until my phone started blowing up and @TheSwooshDog started gaining followers like popcorn, just one after another,” Holliday said. “Well, the phone was blowing up because — see, I got a public setting on his Instagram, and he probably had 1,000 followers and maybe had posted four pictures of him, so it really didn’t have a lot of activity on the account. But within 30 minutes, Nike went from 1,000 followers to about 10,000 followers, and my phone was just blowing up.”

Belichick offered a modest scouting report on the now-famous pooch after the draft. “He’s fast,” he said Saturday. “Not as fast as the rabbits he’s chasing, but he’s close. He’s not that fast, but he’s fast.”

And his intangibles?

“As you can see, he’s very personable, friendly, gets a lot of attention.”

Nike wasn’t always such a good dog, though. It seems that he didn’t take to coaching at first.

“Nike’s been through a lot of rigorous training the first year,” Holliday said. “He’s 2 years old now, two years in February. And the first year he went through a lot of training because quite honestly Klee Kais are like huskies — they have a lot of husky in them — and I’m the daughter of a veterinarian so I thought I could train any dog around.

“Nike won. He won that battle the first year. He was uncontrollable, unmanageable, wouldn’t behave. He nips people. He did things the way Nike wanted to do things. I had a lot of comments on how well-behaved Nike was — and Nike was during his segment at the draft — but that came with an excessive amount of training that both Bill and I still do to this day, working with him.”

A player with attitude might find himself cut from the team, but Nike has Belichick’s heart.

“He’s a fun dog. He enjoys playing,” Belichick told CNBC in 2018. “He’s a boy. He’s aggressive. Like, it’s not just getting it [a toy]; it’s pulling out the stuffing, the squeaker. He likes to mix it up and get tossed around a little bit. He’s pretty good with his paws, too.”

Belichick admits that he and dogs have a mutual admiration society, and there’s even a photo online in which Nike appears to be wearing a hoodie. During a cold April lacrosse game, Holliday wrapped a shivering Nike in a spare hoodie, and another viral moment was born. Not that Nike noticed that the man who helped make hoodies famous was carrying a small dog in a hoodie. Not that Nike cares about any of that.

“I don’t think Nike cares about football,” Belichick said. “He’s just there every day.”

Just doing his job.

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