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Exclusive Interview: Devin McCourty Tackling Sickle Cell

The Patriots have a true leader in Devin McCourty, both on and off of the field. He has championed a cause that is near and dear to his heart.

Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Never forget that there will always be great men in the National Football League. Players who love to help others, those who have great causes to support, and those who are truly wonderful and caring people off the field.

The Patriots have one such leader in Devin McCourty. The former first round defensive back has been a fantastic member of the New England community since he entered the league in 2010. He was named a team captain in 2011 and has been one ever since, often leading pregame huddles and setting the example for those on the team.

While he made the All Pro team at cornerback as a rookie, and again this past season as a safety, McCourty has also been a superstar off the field.

McCourty helps run a campaign with his twin brother Jason McCourty, cornerback of the Tennessee Titans, to raise awareness for a cause that's important to both him and his family. September is Sickle Cell Awareness month (please click here for more information) and Devin is taking the time to bring it to the forefront of the national conversation.

"It's important to me because my aunt and uncle suffer from the disease," McCourty said. "It directly affects me." While the twins don't carry the trait themselves, their father passed away from the disease when they were just three years old. Their father was 36.

Sickle cell is caused when red blood cells don't form in a disk, but instead form into a crescent, or "sickle" shape. The shape creates complications in the blood stream, clogging blood vessels and inefficiently carrying oxygen. It affects roughly 100,000 Americans and there is no current cure. Most treatments are for symptom management, so research for better treatments and possible cures is a necessity.

"I think [the disease] doesn't get enough attention," Devin reflects. "[The campaign] started as just myself and Jason wanting to be involved in helping out my aunt, but I think it has turned into us realizing there's a greater impact on getting the importance of the disease out to a lot of people and seeing how much help and support we can get.

"I hope we can continue to raise awareness and get people involved because I think people want to be involved in great causes and doing the right thing. If we can just reach more and more people each time we talk about it, I think that's just us doing a small thing that can have a greater impact."

McCourty's campaign, called "Tackle Sickle Cell", aims to educate the public and raise awareness through events and interactions with the local communities. Devin is competing with his brother for donations to raise $15,000- and Devin currently leads by less than $100. You can donate here.

In fact, the twins have competed with each other throughout the campaign. This past summer, Devin and Jason agreed to raise money for their 5K race in June- the loser had to dress up as the winner's team mascot. Devin won and Jason held up his end of the bargain.

"It was awesome when he came out dressed as Pat Patriot," McCourty laughed. "People came out and [Jason] had fun and signed autographs. He had a lot of fun with it. I think that's what made it a really cool event; Mr. Kraft even came and took a picture with him."

Devin is hosting a Casino Night in Boston on Monday, October 29th, with tickets at $150. It marks the first time the McCourty brothers are hosting events in their football cities.

"I have mine in Boston, Jason has his in Nashville in November," Devin explains. "This is the first time we're taking it to our cities; even the PSA was shot back in New Jersey at Rutgers. I think it's cool because it just shows that awareness is growing and that the Tackle Sickle Cell campaign is affecting people and having an impact."

McCourty is getting his teammates involved, too.

"[Usually] a lot of the guys that we went to school with at Rutgers came to support us back in Jersey," Devin noted about his campaign's support. "And I think this year, with the Casino night out here, I'll have a lot of [Patriots] guys come out and have fun and help with the event. I'm excited that this year I'll be able to get my teammates involved.

"That's one good thing; everybody that does some event up here, teammates have no problem coming out helping do whatever they can and that's great for everyone. Guys will come out and help raise awareness for great causes. [And] I think it's not just guys wanting to help each other out; guys actually like doing things like this to give back and being a part of the community. It's worked out great."

As a leader both on and off the field, McCourty takes it upon himself to make a difference. He knows the power of his position and uses his platform to enact change.

Best of luck to Devin in raising greater awareness- and let's show that we as fans can help with a great cause.