On this week’s 98.5 The Sports Hub podcast, The Gridiron and Beyond, you’ll hear from Patriots safety Devin McCourty.
I spoke to McCourty last Tuesday, a few hours after Rob Gronkowski’s public introspection on a New York City stage explaining his decision to retire from football. With the joy Gronkowski usually got from the game he loves was sapped by the emotional and physical price paid to play it, he stepped aside.
Not unlike Andrew Luck, who a few days earlier shockingly did the same; wading through a late-Saturday night shower of boos to reach a podium in Indianapolis and open up about his self-described cycle of injury, pain and rehab.
Amid an already heightened awareness of mental health issues around the sport, their words add important context to the conversation.
As the pads come off, whether for good (like Gronk and Luck) or simply between game days, the public is getting to see players as people whose jersey numbers shouldn’t be confused for their identities. And whose worth won’t be determined by their fantasy-football value.
Often mythologized as — borrowing McCourty’s analogy — “gladiators,” he and his NFL peers are sons, siblings, fathers and husbands. They are community members and citizens who, in many cases, are concerned enough to increasingly put themselves out front in support of deeply personal and widely public causes.
Few in New England have worn those many hats as well as McCourty, who enters his tenth season as an eight-time captain, four-time Pro Bowler and three-time Super Bowl champion.
Also, as the father of two, McCourty is a past recipient of the Patriots’ Ron Burton Community Service Award and nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
Since 2013, he and his twin brother and teammate Jason have partnered with the Embrace Kids Foundation to “Tackle Sickle Cell,” fighting a disease that’s profoundly impacted their family.
More recently, McCourty’s become a leading member of the NFL Players Coalition; devoting time and voice to issues relating to criminal justice and educational reform from Queens, N.Y. to Boston’s Beacon Hill.
In this episode of The Gridiron and Beyond, Devin offers:
- A contemporary’s perspective on Luck’s retirement and Gronk’s sentiments, and why it’s important for peers to understand that the game doesn’t “complete” them.
- An explanation of his evolving roles outside the sport — including his inspiration — and how he balances them while performing his demanding on-field job.
- The obvious way he and Jason can actually surpass the success they shared in their first season together as Patriots and Super Bowl champs.
- And the only way their entire defense can meet super-sized expectations for the coming campaign.
Click on the link below to listen via www.985thesportshub.com: