Two days removed from his team’s 30-23 road win over the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty was still running. This time, it was into Stoughton’s Dr. Robert G. O’Donnell middle school gymnasium on Tuesday.
McCourty burst into the wood-floored room to raucous applause from a crowd of hundreds dressed in Patriots jerseys and colors. He tried to high-five everyone in the crowd before heading to a podium to speak about the Patriots' summer reading challenge.
Principal Matthew Colantonio helped kick off an initiative in June for his school to collectively read 2013 books over the summer of 2013. The classes responded and read 2090 books in total. Seventh grader Molly Turner read 47 books.
“That’s tough,” McCourty said in a meet-and-greet that followed the assembly. “I don’t care what kind of books you’re reading. I have to get better, they’re at 47 or 50, I’m probably at two or three. I thought I was doing halfway decent on that, but I’m in the bottom percentile.”
McCourty’s message was a little more serious during the speech. He talked about the similarities between being a professional football player and a student.
“Hard work pays off and that’s what I’m here to let you guys know,” McCourty said. “As a New England Patriot, as a professional football player, that’s what we have to do every day.”
He went on to say that learning his playbook and studying film and statistics are equally as important as what happens on the field, if not more.
Turner said her favorite football player is Vince Wilfork, but she was excited to meet McCourty, especially since she never thought she would have the opportunity to meet a professional.
She admitted she didn’t know how many books she read a week on her way to 47 overall, but highlighted The Hunger Games as one of her favorites.
McCourty said his favorite books growing up were biographies of Emmitt Smith and Wilt Chamberlain because he could see how they were as athletes and people.
He said the experience in Stoughton was fun for him because he’s a “kid at heart” and enjoys encouraging children to achieve their goals.
“You can’t do this on your off day if you don’t enjoy it and have fun with it,” McCourty said. “Seeing kids read that many books and blow away any goals that they have for a number of books, that’s encouraging.”
Peter Cappiello can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @petecapps
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