It was a rare moment on Tuesday night for Devin McCourty. The Patriots captain is known around New England just as much for his time spent bettering his community as his minutes logged in a game, but McCourty doesn't throw himself into the community for praise.
Despite this, McCourty's current and former teammates, family, friends, coaches and more let him know just how much of a role model he has been to all.
Boston Uncornered named McCourty its 2020 Uncornered Champion for his work, and in a virtual event hosted by Pro Football Hall of Fame broadcaster Andrea Kremer, people from all over his world voiced their respect and admiration for everything he stands for.
Boston Uncornered is a non-profit that works to provide resources for gang involved youth to get college credentials and family-sustaining wages instead of turning to violence. By identifying "core influencers" in Boston's neighborhoods, the goal is to end the cycle of poverty and violence from within to create positive change.
McCourty shined a light on the work they do for last year’s My Cause, My Cleats initiative, and since then, he has spent time with people directly impacted by the work Uncornered does. During the livestream, Robert Kraft surprised McCourty by announcing his family's first $100,000 donation to create social and racial change would go to Boston Uncornered.
Matthew Slater was one of many people to join the event, surprising McCourty, and Slater called his teammate "the unquestioned leader of our football team." This applies to his actions both on and off the field, but for McCourty, his objective is simple – provide hope.
"As people, we have an opportunity to really give people hope. When you give people hope, you give them opportunity to be anything that they want," McCourty said. "You give them an opportunity to be … who God made them to be. Continue to bring hope to people, and try to bring out the greatness in everyone."
For the people in McCourty's life, that is exactly what he does.
As a role model to even his peers, McCourty encourages those around him to tap into their own greatness. Dozens of these people made it clear throughout the evening. Surprise video messages came in from his brother, Jason, his wife, Michelle, his mother, Phyllis Harrell, Kraft, Bill Belichick and current and former teammates like Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Slater, David Andrews, James White, Kyle Van Noy, Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung, Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers and more.
"You are the ultimate role model," Belichick said. "You have given us leadership on and off the field since 2010 when we drafted you in the first round … Congratulations for what you have done to improve people's lives through your work with Boston Uncornered. You are a great example of the impact that someone can have with great wisdom, leadership, courage and passion. Conversations across our country and within our team will help lead to paving the way for a better future. Following your lead, and the example of other incredible men on our team, I look forward to increasing my role in this process. Healthy discussion leads to actions, and actions that you have brought to the forefront have resulted in progress."
While some messages were light-hearted, like Van Noy calling McCourty the official "golden child" of the locker room, others came straight from the heart.
Michelle McCourty, with their two kids on her lap, said she hopes they grow up to be like their father.
"We just hope that they can emulate you when they get older," she said. "You are God-fearing. You are passionate about everything that you do, and you make it a point to change the world for the better for whatever short time we're here."
Though he is no longer a Patriot, Brady made it clear that he will always see McCourty as a friend, a brother and a role model.
"I know sometimes you wouldn't think that I would be looking up to you because I'm a lot older than you, but the reality is I have, and I've learned more from you than you probably ever learned from me," Brady said. "You're a wonderful man. You mean a lot to me, you mean a lot to our team, and now as you're growing older into a different role, you're meaning a lot to others in the community, and you're using all the wonderful things that pro football has brought you to bring a voice to those who don't quite have the voice that we have. You fight for people that can't often fight for themselves."
In addition to working with Boston Uncornered, Devin and Jason McCourty have both been involved in advocating for education equality and criminal justice reform, and for this work, they have been nominated for the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award at this year's ESPYs. The winner will be announced during the show on June 21.