FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — In a way, since the day of their birth as twins 31 years ago, Jason McCourty has been chasing his brother Devin. It’s only fitting since Devin was born 27 minutes before Jason on Aug. 13, 1987.
For all of their years as kids — through high school at St. Joseph’s Regional in Montvale, N.J., through college as they starred together at Rutgers — the McCourty twins did everything together.
Until they got to the NFL, where their paths would completely diverge.
Devin essentially won the lottery when he was drafted by the Patriots in the first round in 2010. He’s made it to the postseason in each of his nine seasons — playing in 19 playoff games, including four Super Bowl appearances and winning two titles.
Jason, drafted in the sixth round by the Titans in 2009, has never played in a postseason game.
That changes at 1 p.m. Sunday when the Patriots play the Chargers in the AFC divisional playoff round at Gillette Stadium.
Thanks in part to a persuasive text from his older brother, Jason was acquired by the Patriots in a March trade.
With the Patriots in need of some defensive back help, Devin sent head coach Bill Belichick a text reading: “Coach!!! What’s up? Two McCourtys are better than one.”
Belichick, according to Devin, didn’t respond immediately. But less than an hour later, Devin got a phone call from Belichick with the news the Patriots were about to acquire his brother from the Browns for a sixth-round draft pick.
Jason ended up starting 12 games at left cornerback for the Patriots this season, after starter Eric Rowe was lost with a groin injury.
On Sunday, he finally gets to play his first playoff game after 138 career regular season games. He played his first eight seasons in Tennessee without getting to the playoffs before signing with the Browns last season. The Titans made the playoffs last season and the Browns went 0-16.
So it’s safe to assume no one on the Patriots is savoring this week the way Jason McCourty is.
“I’m enjoying every moment, [because] typically, I’ve already flown home or doing whatever I’m doing for the offseason [by now],’’ Jason said.
“Ten years in the NFL, not tasting the playoffs, I think he probably realizes that more than any of us,’’ Devin said of playoff urgency. “He knows it’s not guaranteed and it doesn’t happen all the time. I think his sense of urgency has been something that we’ve all watched and kind of took from.’’
Devin and Jason, whose lockers are separated by a single stall, share a Twitter account and have a YouTube show called “Double Trouble,’’ which they utilize to bring awareness to their work with sickle cell awareness.
Now they’ll finally share an NFL playoff game together.
After the Patriots clinched the AFC East title, Devin said he was “ecstatic’’ for his brother.
“Everyone can feel his career, what he’s been through, what he’s learned,’’ Devin said. “He kind of pours that out on us daily. It’s been a pleasure having him in the locker room.”
The McCourty’s mother, Phyllis Harrell, used to wear a custom half-Patriots, half-Titans jersey on game days to honor her sons. She’s since updated it to a half-blue, half-white Patriots jersey this season.
“I’ve won Super Bowls and all, but I think the thing she’s most wanted in our [NFL careers] is Jason playing in the playoffs,” Devin said. “I’m sure she’ll be fired up to see him play in his first playoff game. She said that over and over, she just wanted him to get some type of success that I’ve had as far as the playoffs, the post-regular season, as far as the atmosphere. The McCourty gang will be pretty fired up Sunday.’’
With good reason.
In advance of last season’s Super Bowl, which the Patriots lost to the Eagles, Jason said to NorthJersey.com of watching his brother play in a fourth Super Bowl: “There’s no envy or jealousy on my part, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to go once. Watching his journey been the next best thing being able to play in a playoff game.’’
Now Jason finally gets one of his own, hoping to make it two or even three, which would mean playing in his first Super Bowl. That, of course, is the dream.