Devin McCourty celebrates one of his 7 interceptions this season. Photo courtesy of ESPN.words_Nick Engvall

Earlier in the season, we took a look at some of the success stories that came from those athletes that attended the NFL Combine in our mid-season Rookie Watch. One of the young stars that continues to rise above the rest is defensive back Devin McCourty of the New England Patriots.

When making the jump from college football to the NFL, it can take some players years to make an impact; often times, the better the team you play for, the more difficult standing out can be for a rookie. With that said, the fact that Devin McCourty signed with the Patriots – the team with this year’s best regular season record – meant that his performance had to be far and above what any would typically expect from a first-year player. Devin surely didn’t let the fact that he’s a rookie slow him down however. This season, McCourtey has resembled a seasoned veteran, rather than a first-year player.

McCourty was one of only four rookies to be named to the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl last week and, although he stood out amongst other rookies early in the season, Devin seemed to only get better as the season went on. The 23-year-old from Nyack, New York finished the regular season with 7 interceptions and 82 tackles, 69 of which came without any help. McCourty registered his first career sack in a big game in Week 15 against the Green Bay Packers, where he added 10 tackles and was easily the difference in the Patriots‘ narrow 31-27 victory. Devin finished the regular season off by grabbing his 7th interception against Miami on Sunday.

As we look on to the NFL postseason, Devin McCourty and the Patriots, with a 14-2 regular season record and home field advantage throughout the AFC, are the team to beat. With McCourty already selected to the Pro Bowl, his bright future is closer than many expected. With any luck, he’ll find himself at the top of the list of Rookie of the Year candidates and, with the help of his teammates, could be on the way to grabbing his first Super Bowl ring as well.

Check out the interviews of Devin McCourty from the NFL Combine below.