Combine Means Game-time for McCourty

Former Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty has been in Naples, Fla., training for the NFL Combine since Jan. 4. McCourty has checked in with some of his NFL friends, and twin brother, Jason, a member of the Tennessee Titans, to get a better understanding of what will transpire.

The season begins Saturday, and runs through Tuesday.

At least, that is how former Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty is viewing his oh-so important four days he will spend in Indianapolis.

He has been training at Ignition in Naples, Fla., since Jan. 4. In all honesty, he insists, he work is no different than readying for a season, with the caveat being he is preparing harder than he has at any point in his life, and there is no season.

The 5-foot-10 McCourty, who is up six pounds from his Senior Bowl weight and is at 192, is in the final stages of preparation for the NFL Combine, which for him begins Saturday and runs through Tuesday.

"On the field, it's the same as being back in college and getting ready for that next season,'' McCourty said. "I've trained out here with a bunch of guys, and we've become good friends, and on a weekend when we're not working out, we all hang out. It almost feels like you're part of another team while training. It's just a different goal.''

The goal is fast shuttle times, a high number of bench press reps and coming across as intelligent, personable and as an all-around good guy during interviews.

And, especially in the case of McCourty, a blistering 40-yard dash time, which could elevate him solidly into the first round of NFL Draft, which is April 22-24.

"That's the one thing everyone wants to see, you running the 40,'' McCourty said. "That is definitely a goal of mine, but I also want to excel at all the other drills. I've been training down there a lot to run well there.''

McCourty already increased his stock during a strong week of practice at the Senior Bowl. He is considered anywhere between a late first-round pick to an early second-round pick, and he brings tremendous versatility into the draft.

McCourty, a three-year starter, was arguably the best cornerback in the Big East in 2009, but he did much more. He was an accomplished kick returner, bringing one back for a touchdown, and also excelled in blocking and covering punts.

His character should also impress the NFL personnel decision makers, who got a glimpse of his personality at the Senior Bowl.

"I took at a bunch of psychological tests at the Senior Bowl,'' he said. "As far as the (interviews), I talked to a bunch of people, and I talked to my agent about it, and the biggest thing everyone told me was to just be yourself.''

One of those individuals McCourty spoke to is his brother, Jason, who started at cornerback as a rookie with the Tennessee Titans. He also talked to several of his former Rutgers teammates now in the NFL.

"The people I know that have been through it said as long as I be myself, I'll be all right in the interviews,'' McCourty said. "I did a questionnaire for probably 25 different teams, just filling a questionnaire out, or talking to them for five or 10 minutes. I haven't really gotten a feel for who's interested, and who's not.

"They told me a little bit about (the combine), just to be ready to perform because some things are out of your control. So that's what I'm focusing on, being ready to go when it's my turn.'' NFL Draft analyst Chris Steuber gave McCourty a grade of 89 out of 100.

"He's an intelligent performer who has great instincts and recognition skills that allow him to quickly diagnose the action,'' Steuber wrote. "He's strong at the line of scrimmage, effectively jams receivers at the line, displays fluid hips in transition and blankets receivers throughout their routes. He plays with a good degree of explosion, quickly breaks on the throw and flashes on the scene to make the play.

"He demonstrates toughness and proper tackling technique. He positions himself well defending against the run and aggressively brings down the ballcarrier from all angles.''

Although McCourty is anticipating the combine process, he is not nervous.

"I think it's more exciting, kinda like a once-in-a-lifetime thing going through all of this,'' he said. "I know I loved playing in the Senior Bowl, and even though it's a big evaluation with the practice stuff, we had so much fun at practice and into the game.

"Even out here training, we're working hard to try and get to the NFL, but we're still having fun.''

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