PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Jason McCourty may not have had the same immediate impact on the NFL as his twin brother, Devin McCourty, did with the New England Patriots, but the Tennessee Titans starting cornerback and former Rutgers team captain continues to improve each season.
McCourty went from three starts his first year, to six his second, to a breakout third-year with the Titans defense. Starting 15 games, McCourty embodied the Rutgers “swarm” and led the Titans with 105 tackles and two interceptions.
McCourty’s 105 tackles as a corner and on special teams are the most by any cornerback in the NFL this season and fifth among defensive backs. He tied for 27th overall with linebackers Lance Briggs and Sean Lee.
Approaching his first contract year after the 2012 season, the future is bright for the former Rutgers star and team captain.
“I enjoyed [this season] a lot,” McCourty said during halftime of the Rutgers basketball team’s upset of No. 8 Connecticut. “In the NFL, it’s always a business and I loved playing with some of these guys in the last year of their contracts. I’m definitely excited to get preparing for this year and strive for something more.”
The third season in the league became more special for McCourty because of two other members of the Titans.
The first, wide receiver Kenny Britt, had three spectacular performances to open the season and helped McCourty represent Rutgers in a big way before his injury.
“Kenny’s doing well,” McCourty said. “He’s up in Nashville this whole time continuing his rehab. He’s doing really well. He was tearing it up and having a great year. To see him go down with a knee injury, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Kenny hurt since I’ve known him. It hurt to watch him go down. It hurt our offense a lot. I think he’ll be back stronger next year.”
The second came when the Titans signed linebacker Kevin Malast to the practice squad midway through the year. By the end of the season, Malast was on an active 53-man roster for the first time in his three years since graduating from Rutgers.
A captain alongside McCourty with the 2008 PapaJohns.com Bowl team, Malast made two tackles against the Houston Texans in the last game of the season.
“We enjoy being around one another,” McCourty said of Malast, who lived with the cornerback in Nashville, Tenn. for three weeks this year. “I was just excited for him to get his first game in the NFL and to be out on the field with him. It was like being back at Rutgers.”
Year after year, more Scarlet Knights join active NFL rosters. This season, three Rutgers players joined the NFL ranks and five — Nate Jones, Devin McCourty, Tiquan Underwood, Ray Rice and Anthony Davis — will play in the second round of the NFL playoffs this season.
“It’s awesome,” McCourty said of more Scarlet Knights joining the NFL ranks. “I remember when [Tiquan Underwood] signed with New England and he was staying with Devin. Just to see guys you had fun with at Rutgers and now they’re playing in the NFL and talking after the games on Sunday. I remember talking trash to Courtney Greene in Jacksonville when we played them. It’s definitely an exciting deal.”
More from Jason McCourty
On Mohamed Sanu as an NFL prospect “He’s going to be huge. His ability, I remember it was the South Florida game, the one-handed catch that he had, there is no way he should have caught that. Watching him make plays like that with consistency, it’s impressive. I don’t know how fast he’s going to run, but every receiver’s not a runner. Guys that are able to run good routes and hold onto the football, his run after the catch is going to help him a lot too.”
On Logan Ryan emerging as a shutdown cornerback “We obviously work out sometimes and he is really impressive. He has great instincts back there and me and Devin love to watch him play. The thing he does well is his great work ethic. He’s a hard worker.”
On what coach Greg Schiano taught him about preparing for the NFL “I think I learned my rookie year, just understanding the type of preparation and mental toughness that it takes to continue to practice every day. I’m definitely grateful and proud of what I learned at Rutgers from Coach Schiano and all the other guys. Being able to manage your time and keep yourself out of trouble and stuff like that were some of the lessons I learned here.”
On returning to Rutgers “It’s always good to be back. Whenever I can come back and go to a game or just come to practice with some of the [guys], I always enjoy it. It’s a little weird. I used to just be some nobody sitting in the student section and now they announce me, so it’s a little weird. I’m happy to be back.”
On being acknowledged by the fans in the first half “It’s a little surreal to just think that the people out there are that excited to see you. We always laugh when people ask if you get tired of signing autographs. To me, that’s a special thing when somebody comes up to you.”