It’s often the little things. And during Devin McCourty’s decade alongside Bill Belichick, the captain of the New England Patriots’ secondary has listened to a long list of them.
“Obviously he gets on us. He’s hard on us,” McCourty said on Bleacher Report’s Stick To Football podcast during Super Bowl week. “But he loves just teaching the game of football. And he’s prepared us, and especially me – 10 years there.”
McCourty then recalled one of those little preparation points from his first year there.
It arrived on a Monday night at Gillette Stadium against the New York Jets, late in the third quarter.
“I can remember small moments, like we’re playing the Jets my rookie year and it’s like mid-December,” McCourty said of Belichick. “He’s like, ‘Hey, on this sideline the wind blows this way, so be ready. If you get a fade route over here, the ball is not going to travel far. It’s going to kind of get there and just drop. So, if you run, turn your head right away.’”
McCourty did turn his head right away. The second-and-2 pass from quarterback Mark Sanchez didn’t travel far enough down the right sideline to reach wide receiver Braylon Edwards in stride. It faded as the route did instead.
In the 16 mph wind, it became McCourty’s.
“I turn my head, get an interception, and I remember I walked away and I’m like [gasping],” McCourty told Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller and Connor Rogers. “He just predicted what was going to happen in the game, and I think that’s what he loves to do.”
The interception marked the sixth of McCourty’s NFL career. It sent him into second place on New England’s all-time rookie list behind Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Mike Haynes, while his side defeated New York by a score of 45-3.
“This young man, Devin McCourty, is becoming one outstanding corner,” Ron Jaworski said on the Dec. 6, 2010 ESPN broadcast. “... He’s out there man-to-man. Sanchez took his shot. Edwards with an outside release and McCourty right on his hip.”
“That’s one thing that we talked a long time about,” added Jon Gruden, “was handling this wind and this weather this time of year.”
McCourty would intercept a seventh pass before his rookie season concluded. Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro selections followed for the first-round Rutgers product.
As would a decade of little things from his head coach.
Now 32, McCourty has intercepted a total of 28 passes between his regular seasons and postseasons in New England. He is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March.