A lot of legendary players have walked through the New England Patriots’ doors over the last 20 years, and Devin McCourty is right up there with the best of them. That is not just due to the fact that he has helped the organization win three Super Bowls to keep its dynasty alive into a second decade, but also because of what he is meaning to the Patriots and the New England region as a whole both on and off the field.
McCourty has not just been a leading voice in the locker room as a 10-year team captain, after all, but also actively involved outside of pro football. This community impact has led to him being named the Patriots’ NFL Walter Payton Man of The Year nominee this year — the fourth time after the 2014, 2015 and 2018 seasons that the Patriots opted to nominate him.
For fellow captain and long-time teammate David Andrews, this did not come as a surprise. Andrews spoke about McCourty earlier this week, and explained why he would be deserving of the honor.
“To see how much he does off the field, how much he devotes to his family — and I know how much that is — and then the team, being a friend, all that stuff,” the Patriots’ starting center said. “And then, on top of it, all the stuff he does out of football is really impressive to me. This job takes a lot out of you. It’s tough. Then going home, and he’s got obviously two small kids. And a lot of things he went through last year.”
A member of the Players Coalition, McCourty has fought for criminal justice reform, public education, and, together with his twin brother Jason, against sickle cell disease. So far, the two brothers have raised more than $2 million through their Tackle Sickle Cell campaign.
Just earlier this year, the 33-year-old was honored as the “2020 champion” by Boston Uncornered, an initiative driving positive change in local neighborhoods. McCourty also won the Ron Burton Community Service Award back in 2014, and has been nominated for the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award this spring.
Also this year, and with the Coronavirus pandemic forcing students to learn remotely, the McCourty Twins purchased $90,000 worth of Chromebooks for students who did not have computer access in their homes. In October, they followed this donation up with an additional $50,000 to support high school students and their technological needs.
McCourty did all that despite suffering personal tragedy: he and his wife, Michelle, mourned the loss of a stillborn daughter in May. And yet, he continued his work in the community and with the Patriots.
“He’s obviously been through a lot, seen a lot,” said Andrews about McCourty. “He’s kind of done it all. He’s always been there for me at times, good and bad. We’ve had a lot of good times. I think you can learn a lot from people just by watching them, and how they carry themselves. Just seeing how he’s handled a lot of situations in his life is really impressive to me, and something I really look up to.”
The 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during the NFL Honors ceremony ahead of Super Bowl 55, and subsequently receive a $250,000 donation to a charity of his choice. Furthermore, all 32 nominees — among them former Patriots Trey Flowers (Detroit Lions) and Jacoby Brissett (Indianapolis Colts) — will also receive a donation of up to $50,000 in their name to a charity picked by them.
Fans can also vote on Twitter by using the hashtag #WPMOYChallenge followed by their favorite nominee’s name or user handle. The player whose unique hashtag is used the most during the month between December 10th and January 17th will receive an additional $25,000 contribution to his charity of choice, while the second and third placed players will receive $10,000 and $5,000 donations.
For Andrews, who already shared the hashtag in support of his teammate, the choice is a clear one.
“He’s always been someone I could lean on — whether something family life, even stuff outside of football I was struggling with,” Andrews said. “Just who he is as a person, who he has been to me as a person, and what he’s meant to me early in my career and the growth through that career. He’s really meant a lot. There’s no one more deserving to me than him.”