NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Long before Jason and Devin McCourty became Super Bowl champions, even before they rose to football stardom at Rutgers, they were two 155-pound weaklings filled with doubt.
The takeaway, the winners of four Super Bowl rings between them told some 18,000 graduates at Sunday morning’s Rutgers-New Brunswick commencement, is never fear failure even if others around you do.
The McCourtys even pointed to Paul Robeson, the famed Rutgers graduate became known both for his cultural accomplishments and for his political activism, as an example of courage in the face of fear.
“I say to you, Class of 2019, failure is a fear long before it becomes an actual result,” Devin McCourty said. “The power of positive thinking can change your life. I know that chasing goals could be scary. You might be doing things for the first time in your family’s history. You may be following in the footsteps of someone great. But do you think we’d be standing here celebrating the 100th year of Paul Robeson’s graduation if he let fear and doubt step in the way of being great?”
The twins kept the graduates engaged and entertained throughout their keynote speech. They quoted Cardi B and Jay-Z. They referenced New England Patriots teammate Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick. They also acknowledged their mom – their hero – who soldiered on after several surgeries following a car accident and after the father of her two 3-year-old sons died.
They spoke about the lessons learned at Rutgers and how their time on The Banks galvanized their dedication to philanthropic efforts.
When they were done, the largest graduating class in Rutgers’ 253-year history cheered wildly.
The McCourtys cracked on each other, Gov. Phil Murphy received an honorary doctor of laws degree and Rutgers President Robert Barchi offered words of wisdom.
But the graduates shined brightest on a bright, sunny morning. They entered HighPoint.com Stadium on the Busch Campus in Piscataway waving flags, pumping their fists, waving to loved ones. It was “Pomp and Circumstance,” caps and gowns, smiles and hugs.
The Class of 2019 gave a rousing rendition of the Rutgers alma mater song, “On the Banks of the Old Raritan”
Suzanne Link, who graduated cum laude with a double major in human resources management and labor studies and employment relations with a concentration on law in the workplace, said in her Class of 2019 Address that the one thing all the grads had in common was that they had to figure “it” out.
“The it that we had to figure out varied,” she said. “or many, it was being the first in the family to go to college and pick a major. For others, it was being denied financial aid and find a way to stay in school while still paying the bills.”
Soon, Barchi instructed the grads to move their tassels from left to right.
As they cheered, a cannon blast punctuated the moment.