After being selected 27th overall in the 2010 NFL Entry Draft, Devin McCourty immediately burst onto the scene in his rookie season, grabbing seven interceptions, forcing two fumbles and even picking up a sack en route to being named a first-team All-Pro by the Sporting News and playing in the Pro Bowl.
But McCourty couldn't have made that leap without a core of veterans that helped show him the ropes early on. On Wednesday, McCourty first mentioned Kevin Faulk as a Patriots veteran who showed him how to be a pro and establish a routine. Now McCourty is a 12-year veteran and is embracing being on the other end of things, passing along the vast knowledge he's acquired to help the game's next generation.
"I honestly think it's one of our number one responsibilities, just being an NFL player," said McCourty. "A lot of times I talk about James Sanders and how much James Sanders taught me and even texted me after he was gone. When I moved to safety, I'll tell somebody and they'd be like,' who's James Sanders?' And I'll go into details of how my rookie year, making plays, of how many times James alerted me to the D-slant is coming, or here comes the end-to-go, like all those different things, cause he studied the game and knew it so well."
McCourty expressed how this process of veterans taking the young guys under their wing is the lifeblood of the NFL. While tips might be coming directly from certain players, it's likely those were once passed down to them from others that go even further back.
"That's what it means to be a player in this league," said McCourty. "Obviously, you're going to do other things, you want to win, you want to be a good player. But the things that you've learned from the other players passed down from generation to generation, I'm learning something and probably from a Hall of Fame defensive back that played 40 years ago.
"Because as players, we should do that as a fraternity of players in the NFL, is pass down everything that we learn on the field, off the field and try to build this game and the players up."
Having won three Super Bowls and played in just about every kind of game imaginable, McCourty has embraced the role of a veteran leader and it remains one of his favorite parts of playing the game into his second decade.
"It's a big reason why I still enjoy playing, being able to pass those things down to the younger guys," said McCourty. "And just the thought of being in this locker room and teaching guys what I've learned, it's exciting, it's encouraging. Then it's cool to see some of the guys that are now veterans, like David Andrews and these guys that have been here for years, and now they're husbands and families and dads and all of those things. It's all a process. And I got to learn from the guys ahead of me and I just try to do the same thing."