First-year Patriots Savor Trip to Super Bowl

January 27, 2019

By Rich Thompson

Boston Herald

FOXBORO -- New England Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty has been to four Super Bowls but was always on “the outside looking in.”

McCourty will get his opportunity to hoist the Lombardi Trophy and wear the most coveted ring in professional sports when the Patriots engage the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII next Sunday in Atlanta.

“For me, this will be my fifth Super Bowl that I will be attending and this is the first time that I get to go inside,” said McCourty. “I feel from the outside looking in, I’ve been looking through the window, just looking at it.

“Now I get an opportunity to be part of it all.”

McCourty’s played nine NFL seasons that never extended beyond 16 games. While his twin brother Devin was enjoying first-round byes, repeat AFC title games and four Super Bowls with the Patriots, McCourty endured eight fruitless campaigns with the Tennessee Titians and last season with the winless Cleveland Browns.

McCourty had participated in 138 NFL games with 116 starts when he made his postseason debut in the Patriots 41-28 victory over the Chargers in Foxboro.

McCourty tacked up his first pennant when the Patriots eliminated the Chiefs last weekend at Arrowhead Stadium.

“With this group of guys, for me, in year 10 to get a chance to take on this challenge and still be playing at this point, I’m just excited and grateful for everything that that’s coming,” said McCourty. “I’m extremely excited of everything that is on the itinerary just because I’ve only heard about it.”

Rookie tailback Sony Michel hopped on the Super Bowl fast track when he was selected by New England in the first round (31st overall) out of Georgia in the 2018 NFL draft.

Michel was the Patriots’ leading ground gainer in the regular season and performed like a veteran in his debut against the Chargers. Michel had 24 carries for 124 yards and equaled the club playoff record with three rushing touchdowns.

Michel rushed for 113 yards on 29 carries and two touchdowns against the Chiefs. Michel became the first Patriots freshman to have consecutive 100-yard games in the playoffs and owns the NFL rookie record with five touchdowns.

“It’s different, this is my first one, this is my first opportunity and I’m excited,” said Michel. “Of course, our goal and our whole objective is to win that game.

“I wouldn’t say it was what I expected to be because in life it does not always play out as you expect it to be.”

The Super Bowl provides a relative unknown an opportunity to make a play that will be analyzed and talked about for decades. Rookie defensive back Keion Crossen, a seventh-round pick (243rd overall) out of Western Carolina, hopes to be that guy.

Crossen is listed as third-string left cornerback and his primary contributions were seven special teams’ tackles. But Crossen is preparing for the Rams on the possibility that big things happen on the big stage.

“When I get to Atlanta, I think it will all become more real,” said Crossen. “Right now, I’m focused on doing my job and contribute what I can to the best of my ability and hopefully make a play.

“This experience and the memories you make in this locker room, those are forever and they can’t take it away.”