FOXBORO, Mass. — It didn’t take long for New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick to take note of safety Devin McCourty as a team leader.

In fact, Belichick had a pretty good idea that McCourty had that potential before the Patriots even drafted him 27th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft.

“I think you could identify it at Rutgers, absolutely,” Belichick said Friday. “I think you could identify it there without question.

“Now, there and here is two different things, but in that setting, on that team, in that environment, I think he had great leadership. And, again, that’s not the easiest thing to do at the corner position. It’s easier to have more communication (at safety) because you’re making the calls, because you’re kind of  — I mean, defense is structured from the inside out, just like everything else is. The center and quarterback and a personal protector and a middle linebacker and a safety, communication works from the inside out, not the outside in.

“So, the location of his position has facilitated that, but in terms of coming to work every day, being prepared, doing things for the team, helping his teammates out, being a great teammate and all those things, I mean, that’s not really position related and all those things are in place. But, defensively, his position has lent itself more to that than corner did, but his rookie year he played corner, went to the Pro Bowl and gave a lot of leadership at that position, as well.

McCourty isn’t the only player whose leadership has stood out to Belichick immediately.

“I think that’s one of the things that you see from a player, whether it be Devin McCourty or Jerod Mayo or Logan Mankins or guys like that that as rookies, they might not be ‘the team leader,’ but within that group, within that rookie group, they show great leadership,” Belichick said. “And then a lot of times that second year, as it did with Mayo, as it did with McCourty, the third year with David Andrews, you sometimes see that accelerated jump in leadership and those guys being selected as captains by their teammates, things like that.”

McCourty was one of few players named a captain during his second season with the Patriots. He’s been a captain ever since.

Belichick initially was asked if McCourty was one of the Patriots’ players who best would communicate to the rest of the team not to take success for granted. Devin’s twin brother, Jason McCourty, has never played in a postseason game. Now on the 0-12 Cleveland Browns, that’s not going to change in the coming months for Jason.

“He would be absolutely at the top of that list, 100 percent,” Belichick said.

“He does it every day. Devin just does a tremendous job. The leadership that he’s given us, the professionalism, the embodiment of the team and putting the team first, I mean, on every level. I don’t know how it could be really much better or any better than what it is. I mean, he does a tremendous job every day from 7 in the morning when things start going here, to our meetings, to our walkthroughs, to the practice field, to the film sessions, to game days, to after the game. The way he handles every situation, he does a great job for us. The leadership he gives us is tremendous. I mean, I don’t know what else to say.”

McCourty has taken on a greater role at strong safety this season with his college teammate and fellow captain, Duron Harmon, being the team’s primary free safety. McCourty has responded to the position change well and remains one of the team’s top defenders, if not its best.

Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images