As Devin McCourty accepted his tiny trophy for lowest bowling score among the five Rutgers alums co-hosting the Super Rally at the Alley, the New England Patriots star made a fuss of flashing his Super Bowl ring to the crowd.
When McCourty turned around to hand off the microphone, the scowl on Atlanta Falcons star Mohamed Sanu’s face told him he would be wise to head in another direction.
It was all in good fun, of course, as the former Rutgers teammates kept their priorities straight.
Sure, the Patriots beat the Falcons in Super Bowl LI with a record 25-point comeback, but it didn’t stop multiple members of both teams and dozens of Rutgers alums from joining the private crowd that raised $50,000 for Embrace Kids Foundation on Friday night at Bowlmor Chelsea Piers.
“The guys are always into supporting one another, but more importantly I think they are into supporting good causes,” Devin said. “I’m excited for this event because it’s the first time really putting us a group of us together and allowing all the Rutgers guys to come back to one event.”
Devin, his twin brother Jason McCourty of the Tennessee Titans, Sanu, Michael Burton of the Detroit Lions and eight-year NFL veteran Brian Leonard co-hosted the Super Rally at the Alley, which started in 2010 and continued annually as Leonard’s solo endeavor.
“A lot of guys in the NFL do give back, but I’ve never been to a charity event where guys that go to the NFL from one college team all support each other,” Leonard said. “I think it is a unique situation.”
The recipient is Embrace Kids Foundation, a New Brunswick-based charity supporting families of children with cancer and blood disorders.
“I think it has a lot to do with Rutgers,” Leonard said of where the charitable spirit comes from, “and the people who they are and they become, how long they stay in the (NFL) and how charitable they are. It has to do a lot the things that Coach (Greg) Schiano instilled in us.”
The McCourtys share Tackle Sickle Cell, Sanu operates Sanu’s Crew to benefit benefit underprivileged youth with serious health challenges, and Burton recently launched Mike’s Knights supporting children and families battling pediatric cancer.
“This is kind of the first time I’m getting the name out there: What better platform than with guys like Brian, Jason, Devin and Mohamed? I’m really excited about it,” said Burton, who had the top bowling score among the five co-hosts.
“All the (Rutgers’) guys in the NFL have helped me so much on the field, and more importantly off the field in charity work and how to carry yourself as a professional.”
The event featured a live auction of memorabilia autographed by the co-hosts and many of their college and NFL teammates, including several items that fetched $1,000 or more apiece.
“This year was kind of special being able to come together,” Jason said. “I think it shows the guys care, and beyond that it shows that the surrounding people all care.
“To have people show up for different causes and all want to be a part of it just goes to show the impact that we’ve had on the people we’ve come across in our college and now pro careers.”
When it was finally Sanu’s turn to address the crowd, he handed the microphone to a teenager, whose personal story of overcoming cancer with Embrace Kids filling the void of family support left many in the crowd wiping away tears and clapping their hands.
“It’s just to give back, give hope, encourage and let kids know that somebody is always there to support them,” Sanu said. “I try to do my best to give them that because they give me hope and inspire me. I try to give it right back them.”
In the more light-hearted moments, the players happily returned trash talk to each other.
“This is all for bragging rights,” Devin said. “It’s all for whose charity is going to leave home the headline-runner charity. We’ve got a little advantage. We’ve got two guys. We’ve got to try to stay ahead as the McCourtys.”
Added Jason, “That’s the thing with us as twins. We love to compete against each other, but if there are others involved, we’ll try to team up fast and take the others down.”
Even the Super Bowl banter was in jest as Falcons wide receivers Julio Jones and Justin Hardy and Rutgers alum Duron Harmon of the Patriots shared the same real estate.
“I’ve known Devin for years,” Sanu said. “That’s my brother. I’m going to talk trash to him like I was in the Super Bowl. That’s what we do. We talk trash to each other, whether we are drinking water or we are bowling.”