FOXBOROUGH --- Devin McCourty and Ray Rice were in the same recruiting class when they played at Rutgers for former Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano, now head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"We came in together, so we're pretty good friends,'' the Patriots safety said of the Ravens' running back, whom he'll likely encounter in Sunday's AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium. "We hang out a little bit in the offseason. There are a bunch of us that went to school together and came in at the same time at Rutgers and won a lot of games there.
"The biggest thing, I think, is that none of that will matter Sunday.''
McCourty said the former college teammates will put their school ties on hold when they square off against each other for the right to hoist the Lamar Hunt Trophy and savor a berth to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
"We'll be going at it just like every other time we've played in the NFL,'' McCourty said.
Asked what one thing stood out about Rice when they played together in college, McCourty was quick to reply.
"His balance,'' McCourty said. "I think it still shows in the NFL. Just maybe because he is so small, he has great balance and leg strength that allows him to break a lot of tackles.''