FOXBORO, Mass. — If the NFL got a mulligan with April’s draft, the Patriots would never in a million years have the opportunity to select cornerback Devin McCourty with the 27th pick of the first round.
In fact, one draft-day do-over had McCourty going fourth overall, which is just the latest tip of the cap to New England’s outstanding rookie.
At the time of the draft, it was surprising to see McCourty go late in the first round, but he has since proven to be a solid candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year, an award that will likely go to Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Looking back to April, McCourty said he still had no clue where he’d get taken.
“I had no idea, really no idea,” McCourty said Friday. “I didn’t know what to expect, and it all worked out pretty good. I think I sat there like everybody hoping. It’s nerve wracking. If you knew where you were going, I don’t think it would be as nerve wracking as it was, but it was very nerve wracking.”
As the story goes, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick fell in love with McCourty during a private film session prior to the draft, and McCourty’s knowledge of the game won over Belichick, who was the only head coach in the NFL to conduct a film study with the Rutgers star.
Belichick and McCourty watched a series of Rutgers’ defensive plays, and McCourty answered a number of general questions during the session, which last about an hour. At some points, McCourty broke down each of his teammates’ assignments and responsibilities, as well as his own.
McCourty said he found out that day he’d be sitting in on a film session with Belichick, and when the two parted ways, the cornerback “got no heads or tails” as to how the meeting went. But then again, it was the same defense McCourty had been running for five years, so he was confident in his answers. Still, he didn’t know if his responses were what Belichick was hoping to hear.
Obviously, as time unfolded, Belichick was more than pleased. Earlier this season, he likened McCourty’s pre-draft film session to one the head coach conducted with Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who developed into one of the greatest players in NFL history.
“I was nervous, like anybody would have been, I think,” McCourty said. “It’s different. You’re sitting there with Bill Belichick, a Super Bowl champion, a future Hall of Famer, the greatest coach, so it was nerve wracking. I answered his questions, and he liked my answers.”
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