How Devin McCourty ‘Stunned’ Bill Belichick In Pre-Draft Meeting

'I've never had an interview like this'


March 21

FOXBORO, Mass. — Bill Belichick couldn’t have known back in the spring of 2010 that Devin McCourty would go on to become a franchise icon for the New England Patriots, a key member of three Super Bowl-winning teams and a 12-time team captain.

But he knew from their first pre-draft meeting that McCourty, then a largely overlooked cornerback out of Rutgers, was a special player.

Belichick smiled as he recounted the story Tuesday at McCourty’s official retirement ceremony. He’d taken a trip to Rutgers to watch his son, current Patriots linebackers coach Steve Belichick, play lacrosse and figured he might as well meet with McCourty while he was on campus. Belichick is a longtime friend of Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano, and Schiano had given his top draft prospect a positive review.

So, the two met together near the Rutgers weight room and got acquainted.

“Then we got into the film, and that’s where I kind of got blown away,” Belichick recalled. “Coach Schiano told me that Devin was really smart, could run the defense, knew what everyone was doing. I’d heard that before. I was like, ‘All right, we’ll see.’ So I started asking him a few questions about the secondary — what’s this coverage? Who does this? Who does that? What if this guy goes in motion; what’s the call?

“He kind of went through all that pretty good, so I thought I’d ramp it up a little bit and start asking him about the linebackers. What are they keying on this? What are they doing on that? He kind of knocks that out too, so I figure I’m just going to push it out and embarrass him a little bit here. Let’s start talking about the defensive line.”

To Belichick’s surprise, McCourty aced that portion, too. He knew every assignment, every play call, from the secondary all the way down to the interior D-line.

Belichick, who’d won five Super Bowls at that point and had been coaching in the NFL since 1975, was floored.

“One of the classic (defensive tactics) that everybody calls is a stunt where the end and the tackle both go inside and the tackle comes,” he said. “It’s called a Pirate stunt. It’s pretty universal. So I said, ‘What’s this called here, Devin? Let me guess: You’re calling this a Pirate.” And he said, ‘No, it’s actually Buck, because everybody knows what Pirate is, so we have a different call for that. We call it Buck.’ All right. ‘How about this game that the end and the tackle are running? What do we call that?’ ‘Oh, that’s a Tex stunt. The tackle’s first, right? Yeah, that would be a Tex stunt.’

“He knocks out the whole defensive line, too. I’ve never really had an interview like this. I mean, I was completely stunned that he would know as much as he did about the entire Rutgers defense. So I went and talked to Coach Schiano and (said), ‘You told me he knew a lot about what you guys were doing, but this is — I’ve never had an interview like this.’

“And he said, ‘Yeah, I think he’s probably the smartest player we’ve had here. He’s a corner, but he could play safety, for sure. So if you draft him as a corner and you decide to move him to safety, Devin could easily play safety.’ “

The Patriots drafted McCourty at No. 27 overall — surprisingly early given his pre-draft projections — to play cornerback, and he made the Pro Bowl there his rookie year. But they moved him to safety two years later, and his career took off.

The elite football IQ that McCourty flashed in his interview allowed him to become the quarterback of New England’s defense — late in his career, he, not a linebacker, wore the green dot as the primary defensive communicator — and his rare durability made him a constant in the secondary. He missed just five games in his career and none over his final seven seasons, annually playing around 95% of the Patriots’ defensive snaps.

Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft both said they look forward to McCourty’s eventual induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame, which, after a career like his, is a foregone conclusion.

“It’s truly been an honor to coach you, to have you on this team,” Belichick said. “You’ve truly been the epitome of everything that a coach could ask for, everything that a team could ask for, everything that an organization could ask for.”

Thumbnail photo via Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports Images
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