Patriots head coach Bill Belichick seems to have ties to the Rutgers (NJ) University football program that are stronger than any other NFL coach would have towards a certain school.
But even though his son Stephen is currently on the team as a walk-on long-snapper, the prestigious Pats’ coach has long dipped into the RU pool of talent; which is why it’s no surprise that one of his better – and favorite – players is former Rutgers star Devin McCourty.
A second-year cornerback, McCourty was a Pro Bowler in his maiden campaign and has been a key contributor on two Patriots playoff squads, which only speaks of what Rutgers has had to offer. Belichick said he’s always liked nabbing guys from New Jersey’s state school because of how well-prepared they are when entering the league. He credited former RU coach and newly-hired Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano for getting them ready.
“All those players from there are team-oriented and come from a great program,” said Belichick. “Schiano coached them well. Whether they were higher picks or lower draft picks, they all compete and come into the league knowing how to play.”
McCourty has had the most success of the four RU guys on the Patriots’ roster but he will not take it for granted. His outlook on his meteoric rise belies his youth, as he said he’s totally appreciating every step of the way
“It’s been an enjoyable ride and I’m just trying to enjoy every moment of this. I don’t take anything for granted,” McCourty said. “Being in Hawaii last year [for the Pro Bowl] was awesome but now being here at the Super Bowl is even more special because it’s the guys you grind with all season … It’s like a dream come true.”
McCourty then made sure he gave all praise to the coaches and program that helped get him to this level.
“The biggest thing was the way coach Schiano ran the program,” said McCourty. “We always had a professionalism about us; from the way we practiced to how we dressed and acted in public. So, when I came here it was kind of like falling in line easily and learning my role.”
McCourty’s role figures to be rather immense come Sunday, as he’ll be lined across from any number of Giants receivers – a unit that is arguably the best in the league. And even though Big Blue’s receiving corps is an upgrade over what McCourty saw during his time at Rutgers, he said in the end it all comes down to executing and just finding a way to get things done.
“They bring every challenge that a wide receiver group brings [because] they have three very explosive receivers,” McCourty said. “But at this time of year, it doesn’t matter what a secondary has given up throughout the season because playoff stats [reset]. There’s one game left and each team is going to do what they have to do to get this win.”