"Are you two brothers?" a voice from the crowd asked Devin McCourty.
"Nah, I just met him today," Devin said in jest, referencing his twin, Jason.
Both McCourtys made their way down the line of the Patriots Foundation's tent at training camp on Friday, signing autographs and taking selfies. The kids seated in the tent lit up as they realized the Patriots were coming towards them, and the police officers who work closely with them beamed watching it all unfold.
Kids and officers from the Framingham Police Department's Police Athletic League (PAL), aimed at using sports to build positive relationships between law enforcement and the community, sat sideline as the Patriots practice. During the summer, officers in the Cambridge Police's Youth and Family Services Department, who work as resource officers in schools throughout the year, work closely with youth groups to build relationships and mentor youth in the community. On Friday, Officer Michael "Whitey" Daniliuk accompanied a Cambridge football team, members of the youth police academy and members of Hip Hop Transformation to Gillette Stadium as well.
While both groups function differently, they both are aiming for the same goal -- cultivating relationships and becoming mentors for young people in the communities they patrol.
"It's incredible because when they see you out on the street, even when they see you in your uniform later on, it's not like, 'There's a cop over there,'" Officer Daniliuk said. "My nickname is Whitey, and they're like, 'Oh, there's Officer Whitey.' They'll come over and talk. Even when they're with groups of friends they don't act differently towards us. We spend a lot of time building relationships with the kids. We build a lot of trust."
Knowing the groups that would on the other end of the field, it is no surprise that Devin, Jason and Duron Harmon were among the first Patriots to greet them after practice. The trio of Patriots have been active in the community this offseason, vocalizing support for legislation to help under-funded schools, moderating a debate for a district attorney race and writing op-eds in favor of youth criminal justice reform to shut down the school-to-prison pipeline.
"The opportunity that we have with our platform just to be able to come out here and say hi, sign a few autographs," Jason said. "For them, they talk about how cool it was to watch practice. Just to bring a smile, whatever they have going on in their lives outside of here, to be able to come out on a beautiful day like this and watch probably their favorite team practice and some of their favorite players, it’s an awesome and humbling experience for us."
"I think for us it brings a spotlight always to what these officers are doing, taking usually their free time to go work with youth in the area they work with and just try to advance the kids and help them become something maybe they don’t get to see around them," Devin said. "I think it’s awesome of them too."
The Patriots weren't the only ones who will remember this moment. Officer Daniliuk said the kids he works with will never forget it.
“This will be a story that spreads because these kids will go home and tell everybody, and it’ll be something that they’ll ask, ‘Oh jeez can we do this again?’ I know they’ll hold this dear,” Officer Daniliuk said. “This might be one of those moments, ‘Oh I remember in high school this is what we did.’ I think they’ll hold it in that kind of esteem. I think building the relationships and having these kinds of experiences shared with the kids is transformative.”