Patriots fans got a great take last Tuesday, when cornerback Devin McCourty spoke to 150 ticket holders at The Hall at Patriot Place. Fans bought the tickets for $25 on a first-come, first-serve basis, and after McCourty spoke for an hour, he signed an autograph for everyone in attendance.
The event started out with McCourty sharing the story of his football journey, and then he opened it up to questions from the audience, which sat in a cozy theater. Considering the fact that you can pay up to $350 — and probably more — for McCourty’s John Hancock, the fans in attendance got a bargain.
Anyway, with everything McCourty dished out through the night, which included media availability afterward, there was a ton of information left over in the notebook. It’s time to empty it out for a large portion of the Two-Minute Drill.
1. McCourty said his favorite question came from a fan who asked if he cooked for himself, and his response was pretty funny, too. After getting tired of eating out all the time — he specifically mentioned Five Guys Burgers and Fries, which is located in Patriot Place — McCourty started cooking for himself at home. Most of the time, he’ll video chat with his mother while she helps him get through the recipe.
2. McCourty probably answered more than 20 questions, but that’s the one that stuck out. “That was the funniest question I got,” he said after the event. “It was cool because not everyone in here was interested in interceptions and all the technical stuff. [They are] just trying to get to know me.”
3. McCourty was asked why he wears No. 32, and the response was interesting. First, McCourty mentioned that he was assigned No. 39 during his first year at Rutgers, but he “hated it” and was later able to change to No. 21. McCourty didn’t give a specific reason for taking No. 21, but later in the event, he mentioned that two of his favorite players have been Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders and Packers cornerback Charles Woodson, who himself has publicly admitted to wearing No. 21 in honor of Sanders.
4. When McCourty was drafted by the Patriots, one of the first things he did was check the roster online, and he noticed future Hall of Fame running back Fred Taylor already had No. 21, so he wouldn’t even bother trying to take that. McCourty said his only options were Nos. 32, 37 and 41, and he went with 32 because that’s the number his brother wore in Pop Warner.
5. On a side note, that was a year after safety Rodney Harrison retired, so it appears that someone will wear No. 37 at some point. It’s just unclear when.
6. McCourty was later asked if he would take No. 21 if and when Taylor retires, but the cornerback said no because he didn’t want to collect any bad karma by changing numbers after experiencing success. Oh, and he didn’t want to disappoint the fans who — just minutes before — lined up with a bunch of No. 32 jerseys for him to autograph.
7. McCourty and his twin brother, Jason, who plays for the Titans, spend as much time together as possible. Devin said when they walk around the Boston area and get separated by a few feet, it seems like more people approach Jason thinking he’s Devin than those who actually approach Devin.
8. Something I’ve heard from a bunch of people in the Patriots’ organization, though, is that it’s nearly impossible to tell the twins apart when they’re standing side by side.
9. McCourty told a story about a prank they tried pulling in middle school. He and his brother switched chairs during class, but about 10 minutes later, some other student ratted them out. What a nerd, right? (The rat, not McCourty.)
10. The event’s moderator introduced McCourty as one of the great Patriots of all time, but when McCourty finished speaking to the crowd, he wanted to make sure to express he didn’t believe that was an appropriate label. But some day, McCourty continued, he hoped to be considered among New England’s legends.
11. Shortly after McCourty was drafted, he said he went to an event at The Hall at Patriot Place with a group that also included safety Patrick Chung, quarterback Brian Hoyer, wide receiver Julian Edelman and tackle Sebastian Vollmer. “It’s a different kind of feeling,” McCourty said of his experience at The Hall, “knowing as a player that no matter what, you’ve now entered this just by playing one year with the Pats.”
12. McCourty said his favorite interception this season came on Thanksgiving against the Lions, which was the most impressive, in my opinion, because he outleaped wide receiver Calvin Johnson for the ball. McCourty mentioned how flat the Patriots played in the first half and how they kept saying they needed to do something to turn the tide. Then, McCourty went over to safety Brandon Meriweather and said they need to stop talking about making a play and actually make a real play. On the next series, McCourty recorded the pick, and it sprung the Pats on a 35-7 run to finish the game. He said he was just proud to do something to energize the team and push them toward a victory.
13. McCourty also said he’ll never forget the first play of his NFL life, when Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer tested him with a deep pass down the left sideline for wide receiver Terrell Owens. When reflecting upon the pass breakup, McCourty said, “I was so tired after that first play. I was so excited. You always remember the first play you ever played in. For me, it was [against] a future Hall of Famer.”
14. McCourty’s first career interception came against Philip Rivers — he later picked off Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, so that’s pretty decent, too — and Rivers approached him about it at the Pro Bowl. Rivers told McCourty the safety was too deep in the zone, so he thought he could throw it over the top to wide receiver Patrick Crayton, but McCourty made a heck of a play to pull it out of the air. McCourty was overwhelmed by the conversation with the star quarterback, saying he thought to himself, “Am I really supposed to be here?”
15. Last season, after early-September roster cuts, a number of rookies said the coaches told them things to the effect of, “Don’t think this means you’re on the team for the full season.” It’s some scary advice that really grounds the rookies during a moment that deserves some celebration. McCourty added a message from Bill Belichick during the same time period. Basically, after roster cuts, Belichick told the rookies that this was something they need to appreciate hearing right now, rather than 10 years from now when they’re looking back at their time in the league. This isn’t college, where teams can field 100-some odd players on the roster, and if you play poorly, you ride the bench. In the NFL, if you play poorly, you get fired because the roster limitations are unforgiving. It’s a haunting wakeup call, but that’s another example of the honesty that players appreciate from Belichick.
16. Last note on McCourty: He said he tried not to put too much stock into which teams he thought would be interested in drafting him because he thought that would increase the stress level of the process. However, he also said the Jets and Browns were the two teams that showed the most interest during the draft process. The Patriots took McCourty with the 27th pick, two spots before the Jets took Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson and 11 spots before the Browns took Oregon safety T.J. Ward, who had a heck of a rookie season.
17. Here’s an interesting read on the nine players who have eclipsed the 4.3-second mark in the 40-yard dash at the draft combine since 1999, when they began using electronic timing. Five of them — Titans running back Chris Johnson (4.24 seconds), Ravens cornerback Fabian Washington (4.25), Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey (4.28), Raiders wide receiver Jacoby Ford (4.28) and Cardinals cornerback Antonio Rodgers-Cromartie (4.29) — have experienced varied levels of success in the NFL. The other four — wide receiver Rondel Melendez (4.24), Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (4.25), wide receiver Jerome Mathis (4.28) and Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt — have been flops.
18. Notice that four of them, including Washington, were drafted by the Raiders. Surprisingly, at least by the Raiders’ track record, they took running back Darren McFadden with the fourth pick in 2008 instead of Johnson, who went to Tennessee at No. 24. Now, McFadden was a certifiable stud in college and is anything but slow, but his career has fallen shy of Johnson’s due to some injuries and the Raiders’ strange distribution of carries. Heading into the 2008 draft, there was just no second-guessing of McFadden’s ability and potential.
19. But if the Raiders drafted McFadden for his credentials, it makes their 2009 draft that much more curious. They took wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey with the seventh pick, and in doing so, they left Michael Crabtree on the board. Crabtree was easily considered the top wideout in that class, which also featured first-rounders Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin and Kenny Britt.
20. I ranked the 10 best rookies from the 2010 class Tuesday, and it was tough to leave a handful of players off the list, including (in no particular order) Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, Jaguars defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, Seahawks tackle Russell Okung, Rams tackle Rodger Saffold, Browns safety T.J. Ward, Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston, Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap and Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, who probably would have made the list if he played all 16 games.