Pats' Devin McCourty gives kids his read on reading

The Providence Journal - When Devin McCourty first became a member of the New England Patriots and arrived at training camp in 2010, his coaches handed him a hefty playbook. It was a few inches thick.

"They said, 'Here, Devin. Welcome to the New England Patriots. Learn this,' " the defensive back explained to the students at Arlington Elementary School on a recent morning.

"And they didn't say, 'Hey, read this your first year and then come back next year ready to go.' They said, 'Read this section. Know it by tomorrow. Then we'll read a little more.' And before you know it, in two weeks you've got to read this whole playbook.

"And if you don't read it, guess what?" McCourty continued. "You get cut! They fire you. They tell you to go home."

"So that's why I came today, guys," he said to the 283 youngsters. "I want to let you know how important reading is. No matter what you do, no matter what you think you will do, no matter what you dream to do, reading will always be there."

McCourty read two books to the students gathered in the school cafeteria. He had their full attention as he read "Pirates Go to School," written by Corinne Demas, and "Let's Go, Patriots," written by Aimee Aryal.

Then came the questions:

Sixth-grader Gabby Onorato wanted to know how McCourty overcame his nervousness while playing in front of so many people.

"Now it's a little bit easier," he said. "But I remember my rookie year, I took the field and I was playing against two of the best receivers to play the game, Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens. First game ever and I was so nervous. They threw at me, first play -- 40-yard pass -- and I got a hand on the ball. After that, it was cool."

McCourty told second-grader Samantha Anevalo that his favorite subject in school was math and that he continues to use math every day as a football player.

Asked for some words of inspiration and advice about what it takes to become a professional athlete, McCourty talked about the importance of having a good attitude, working hard and getting a good education, while also keeping their eyes on their dreams.

"When I was in high school, I was 5-9, 120 pounds my freshman year, and my old high-school coach didn't think I could play in the NFL," McCourty said. "You have to just believe in yourself."

Hearing that message from someone the students look up to can have a powerful effect, said Arlington principal Michelle David.

"My little ones get excited, but it's the ones who sat in the back. It's the sixth-graders," she said. "We're constantly, constantly talking to them, pushing them ... I know they're huge Patriots fans, and they want to be professional football players, professional baseball players. So by him telling them that they need to read and they need to get a good education ... ?this is just another push."

Afterward, McCourty said his recovery from recent shoulder surgery is going well. "I'm just rehabbing day by day and taking it one step at a time. It's a process I'm learning, and I'm just going through it and listening to the trainers."

(Contact Carolyn Thornton at cthornto@providencejournal.com.)

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)

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