Never underestimate the extensive power of a Super Bowl victory. Especially in the Super Bowl that featured more players from Rutgers than any other college.
The charity started by former Rutgers stars Devin and Jason McCourty seemed to be a beneficiary of Devin’s recent title with the New England Patriots in the form of a record turnout Saturday for the Tackle Sickle Cell Blood Drive at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.
“Maybe the Super Bowl win helped it,” Devin told NJ Advance Media, also crediting many of the people who work behind the scenes for the blood drive to succeed. “To be a part of this is just incredible. A lot of people believe in it, and I think that’s why the numbers continue to improve.”
Jason, who stars for the Tennessee Titans, agreed after seeing 280 presenting donors sign up for the annual event. The previous record of 170 was set in 2016, the third of now four years that the brothers, Embrace Kids Foundation of New Brunswick and the hospital partnered on the blood drive.
“When half of us continues to win Super Bowls, that always helps,” Jason said, referring to Devin’s second ring in three appearances in the big game. “It’s a tribute to the Rutgers community. Devin and myself, and especially Eric (LeGrand), have been able to be pretty good ambassadors, doing some good things in the community that are worth giving back to.”
The McCourty’s started the charity in honor of an aunt who suffers from sickle cell disease and have grown it to the point where both have been nominated for the NFL Man of the Year award.
“I feel sometimes more known for doing this than for playing football, and to me that’s what life is about,” Devin said. “Obviously someday, probably in the near future for us, football will be over, but the work we’ve been able to be a part of really impacts people’s lives forever.”
Several Rutgers football players, including last year’s team co-captain Julian Pinnix-Odrick, showed up in support. When the blood drive ended and the autographs for fans stopped, the McCourtys quietly visited patients at Children’s Specialized Hospital.
“This is what it’s about,” Jason said. “The big (reason) why we got into sickle cell was to give back, and one of the big things for the patients are blood transfusions.
“Although we do things to raise awareness, to raise funds, a day like today — a blood drive to save lives and further people’s lives by the donations that were made today — is tremendous. To know that each year we keep eclipsing the number is just a huge achievement.”
Devin’s huge achievement on-field hasn’t shaken up his world nearly as much as the pending arrival of his first child with his wife. He described the two weeks since the historic comeback on the Atlanta Falcons as “normal.”
“The funny thing is everybody wants to win a Super Bowl, and it really doesn’t change anything in your daily life,” McCourty said. “I have a kid on the way, so we’ve been setting up Pack ‘n Plays, bassinets. I had one day to celebrate. Ever since then, I’ve been on straight daddy mode.”
The McCourtys have held a Casino Night fundraiser in conjunction with the blood drive in years past but opted instead to combine forces with other Rutgers alums such as Mohamed Sanu, Brian Leonard and Michael Burton to form a Super Rally at the Alley on March 24.
The event will raise money for children with cancer, sickle cell and other blood disorders.
“I’m really excited about it,” said Jason, whose wife is expecting the couple’s third child. “It’s going to be an awesome time. We’ve already reached out to a bunch of the Rutgers guys. I’m looking forward to seeing everybody.”