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INDIANAPOLIS — Bill Belichick was given an unexpected honor on Thursday at the NFL Combine, receiving the Game Ball award from the Fritz Pollard Alliance for his commitment to diversity.

The Fritz Pollard Alliance was founded in 2003 to advocate on behalf of minority coaches. Former chairman John Wooten, who recently retired and was replaced by Harry Carson, said Belichick deserved the award for doing “a very special job of leveling the playing field in diversity and inclusion in the NFL.” The Alliance also named Patriots scout Steve Cargile as the AFC Scout of the Year at Thursday’s awards luncheon.

Belichick was surprised to learn he won the award, and was not able to accept it in person, as he did not arrive in Indianapolis until Friday. But Belichick thanked the Alliance in a video message that was played at the luncheon.

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“I regret that I can’t be there to accept it in person, because this means an awful lot to me,” Belichick said. “I think back to the start of my career, when I was given an opportunity when there were so many other deserving and more qualified people out there. I know that’s what this organization is all about. It’s creating opportunity, and I’ve always tried to give that back to others throughout my career.

“I go back to my days in Cleveland, when I learned so much from Jim Brown about diversity and about how to relate and connect with people, both players and coaches as they came up in football. … I learned so much from him during those five years when I was with the Browns. That’s continued to be a part of our lifelong friendship.

“Very proud of the connections that I have to this organization, and very proud of what this organization has done for so many people and for the sport of professional football.”

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Ben Volin can be reached at benjamin.volin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin.