INDIANAPOLIS -- Millions of eyes are on the Patriots this week.
There will be a lot of talk about the pressure of performing on the biggest stage, under the hottest lights in American sports. More than a week after the conference championship games, people are rehashing who failed (Kyle Williams, Billy Cundiff) and who succeeded (Jacquian Williams, Sterling Moore) in the season's most crucial moments.
There's even more to see here in Indianapolis.
Every player on New England's roster is also being scrutinized as a man. Some fans don't care about what the Patriots do or believe when not wearing a uniform. Others do. While the week shouldn't be walked like a tightrope for fear of screwing up, it can be looked at as a platform for doing something good. For sending a positive message to those who hang on every word.
Devin McCourty knew exactly what he wanted to say on Monday.
"Just believing and working hard," he said. "I remember growing up, watching the Super Bowl every year and looking at those guys like they were superheroes. Now, to actually be a part of it, I'd just say keep working hard and believing in anything you want to do. That's what my mom preached at me growing up. No matter what you want to do, don't let anyone tell you you can't."
Maybe it sounds a little like an after school special. It's supposed to. Besides, McCourty was sincere.
For as tremendous a rookie year as he had -- 82 combined tackles, 17 passes defensed, seven interceptions, a Pro Bowl berth -- the totality of his sophomore slump has also been impressive. Almost every week McCourty had to stand and be accountable for missed tackles, blown coverage, and all the surrendered yardage. He was asked why he suddenly has such trouble finding the ball in the air. He was prodded about why, even when he was right there, he couldn't make plays on the ball. A late-season shoulder separation heaped on more doubt: Was McCourty damaged goods?
Through it all he's never broken down. Just as his mother taught, McCourty kept working and believing. That's why, as he talks about the Super Bowl, he can use the platform honestly.
It is all more than he ever imagined.
"I think any football player growing up, I don't know if you dream about this situation exactly right here, but you dream about being in the NFL. And you watch the Super Bowl and see those guys and think about how fortunate they are and how cool it would be to actually be playing in one.
"I don't know if you can actually visualize being there because to you, the Super Bowl is so far away, it's so unreal. To be a part of it is a blessing."
McCourty doesn't mind the expectant eyes. As a football player, he can manage the pressure. As a man, he's grateful to have the chance.