In an already difficult year, Devin McCourty and James White faced great loss in 2020. In the face of grief after McCourty lost his daughter, Mia, at birth and White lost his father, Tyrone, in a car accident, both men relied on their families, friends and teammates for strength.
This perseverance was recognized by their teammates as the Patriots 2020 Ed Block Courage Award recipients, and at a virtual gala on April 24, McCourty and White spoke about the grieving process and finding ways to cope and make it through.
While it is an award given to individuals, McCourty made it clear that it took a village.
"It's an honor, I think, you know any award that really personifies adversity and getting over that and persevere and. And I think that's what the Ed Block Courage award stands for to have courage to move forward. I think for me personally, and I'm sure the same thing for James, that represent just our family," he said. "It's not just about us. It was having a whole village our family support us to be able to go out there and continue to play football, through a hard time. Especially for me, my wife was my motivation and inspiration all year. Just seeing her continue to go on and fight and doing all the things she needs to do as a mother and a wife, even though I know how much she was hurting. So for me this award really goes to her and my family supporting me a lot just to get through this season."
White echoed this, saying his teammates helped keep him together in one of the most difficult periods of his life.
"Guys like Devin and Matt Slater and many other guys on our team, whether it was sending messages while I wasn't there and outside the hospital, whether it's Bible verses, encouraging messages to kind of lift my spirits," White said. "Once I got back up there just being around the guys kind of helped get my mind off of things and kind of keep me level headed. Football is kind of a distraction to all noise that kind of goes on your life so it definitely helped me a little bit of obviously still on the forefront of my mind but these guys kept me sane."
Even tougher for White was not being close to his family and his mother, Lisa, as she recovered from her own injuries sustained in the accident. When he returned to Foxborough, his family was in Florida, and as much as football was a distraction for him, it also left him feeling helpless.
"It'll still be a lot of time before she's kind of back to her normal stuff but it's been great to see her progress and getting better. She's a fighter. It was tough. Coming out during the season and seeing her in the hospital like that. My mom will strong woman, but just to come through all that stuff, it was difficult," White said. "It was tough for me to come back this season is probably the hardest year football for me, because I kind of put a lot of stuff on my brother with him, you know, being here with her and my grandma, not be able to do anything at all so far away. It was tough for many reasons, but things have been getting better for sure."
McCourty and White also took questions from students in The Key Program, which is the Patriots chosen "Courage House." The Key Program is a non-profit that helps children and their families develop life skills to pursue happy and productive lives.
When asked how they got through dark days, McCourty put it perfectly.
"I would always challenge you is to be ready. I think adversity hits people and we all know what to do when adversity hits we keep praying and we find hope. We know there's a top that you're trying to reach," McCourty said. "I would just remind you, you're all going to have prosperity. You're going to have good lives and be successful. Remember the things that got you there, stay focused on those. Don't lose sight of what made you who you are."
The Ed Block Courage House is hosting an auction to benefit their 27 National Courage House Support Network for Kids organizations, including The Key Program. The auction is open until April 29 and can be found here. You can also watch the full virtual gala here.