Super Bowl Champions and Rutgers Alumni Jason McCourty and Devin McCourty Encourage Class of 2019 to Chase Their Dreams

Super Bowl Champions and Rutgers Alumni Jason McCourty and Devin McCourty Encourage Class of 2019 to Chase Their Dreams

Super Bowl champions Jason McCourty and Devin McCourty told Rutgers Class of 2019 they will face roadblocks, speed bumps and every obstacle possible, but urged them to confront these challenges head on and not let moments of self-doubt, fear and disappointment interfere with their drive to be great.

Super Bowl champions and Rutgers alumni Jason McCourty and Devin McCourty deliver the 2019 Commencement address on May 19 at Stadium. (Photo: Nick Romanenko)

The McCourty brothers – Rutgers alumni who made history on Feb. 3, 2019, when they became the first set of twins to play together in, and win, the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots – told the graduates who received degrees at Stadium that the power of positive thinking can change their lives.

“I know chasing goals can be scary,” said Devin McCourty during the ceremony for students graduating from Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. “Do you think we would be here celebrating the 100th year of Paul Robeson’s graduation if he was too scared to step out there and be great? Would the Patriots have six Super Bowls if Bill [Belichick] listened to other people and put Tom Brady back on the bench?’’

The McCourty brothers, who graduated a year apart – Jason in 2009 and Devin in 2010 – told the more than 47,000 who attended Commencement about the journey they took to reach their goals. From college at Rutgers where they met their wives, they talked about being drafted by the NFL, marriage, becoming fathers and starting the Tackle Sickle Cell campaign in 2013 to highlight their aunt’s battle with the disease, which has raised over a million dollars.

Devin McCourty spoke about feeling insecure that his brother was faster, stronger and smarter and wondered why his brother’s dreams seemed to be happening more quickly. “Never let the journey of the next person define your success or failures,” he said. “Redefine success every step of the way, continue to keep your head down and work.”

It’s not winning that’s important, Jason McCourty told the crowd as he talked about his life as a child, losing his father to illness and a car accident the same year that led to dozens of knee surgeries and prevented his mother from ever working again. He also spoke about the courage of Eric LeGrand, paralyzed from the neck down after making a tackle in 2010.

“These scenarios are real. They happen. And they force you to look deep within, to challenge all you thought was important and force you to determine who you are and what you’re going to be,” Jason McCourty said.

Bad situations will occur throughout life, he told the students. But LeGrand's motto, “Believe,'' is critical if you want to succeed, he said.

“Adversity is guaranteed to strike at some point in our lives. How we deal with adversity will dictate who we become as people,” Jason McCourty said.

An excerpt of an upcoming documentary on Paul Robeson, produced by the Documentary Film Lab at Mason Gross School of the Arts, debuted at Commencement.

The brothers' message resonated with members of the graduating class, especially their advice to not get discouraged by others.

Shane Hartley, of Teaneck, who wants to go to medical school, said people also tell him to have a "plan B," just as Devin McCourty said the brothers were told when they came to Rutgers.

“The fact that they achieved their dream makes me want to be more single-minded. I am just going to do what I want to do," Hartley said. “I am not going to accept anything less.’’

Sayra Reyes, who graduated from the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences with a degree in environmental science, also felt the brothers' words were inspiring.

“They went through so much in their lives. They made it, and they are trying to do more,'' Reyes said. “I like that they are not just athletes. They are taking on a philanthropic role. They are activists. They are doing more than playing football.’’

Before the McCourty twins spoke, President Robert Barchi bestowed upon them honorary doctor of humane letters degrees and presented New Jersey Governor and former U.S. ambassador Phil Murphy with an honorary doctor of laws.

Murphy told the class to leave its mark and take hold of the mantle of leadership. “We need your voices and activism,” Murphy said. “We need your optimism and intelligence. We need your leadership.”

Barchi also presented a replica of the 1973 doctorate of humane letters given to Paul Robeson, who was only the third black student to ever attend Rutgers when he graduated in 1919. The university is highlighting his legacy this year in celebration of the centennial of his graduation.

During Commencement, Barchi described Robeson as Rutgers’ most gifted and accomplished alumnus, a Phi Beta Kappa scholar, an All-American athlete, a world-renowned singer and actor, a spellbinding orator and a passionate activist and humanitarian.

“Paul Robeson has left an indelible mark on the history of our university and the history of our nation,” Barchi said before Robeson’s granddaughter and executive director of the Paul Robeson Foundation, Inc., Susan Robeson, accepted the honor on Sunday.

An estimated 18,825 graduates will receive degrees from Rutgers this year. (Photo: Nick Romanenko)

An estimated 18,825 graduates will receive degrees from Rutgers this year. They include approximately 12,187 baccalaureate degrees, 4,926 master’s degrees, 1,711 doctorates and one specialist of education degree. Since its founding in 1766, Rutgers has awarded 598,874 academic degrees, not including 2019.

Barchi told the graduates on Sunday that earning a Rutgers degree was hard work, but making a difference in the world would be harder.

“We need your energy, your compassion, your initiative,” he said. “We need you out there putting your ideas to work for the common good, accomplishing the things that those of us on the stage have not gotten done.”

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