The best story of Patriots-Titans week? No doubt, it's 'Mama McCourty'

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The picture says it all. Phyllis Harrell, the proud mother, is holding up a unique NFL jersey that is half New England Patriots and half Tennessee Titans.

On her right shoulder stands one of her twin sons, Patriots safety Devin McCourty. On the left shoulder is the other twin, Titans cornerback Jason McCourty.

The snapshot captures one of the unique stories in the NFL -- how a single mother raised two boys who became not only two of the best players at their respective positions, but also Walter Payton Man of the Year award nominees for their teams in 2015.

“You can’t put it into words,” Harrell said in a phone interview. “I’m just so amazed at all they have accomplished in the time they’ve been in the NFL, and I’m so happy that they use the platform of the NFL to do work in the community and help other people.”

Sunday is a day the family was looking forward to since the NFL schedule was released in the spring -- Devin’s Patriots team hosting Jason’s Titans team. Unfortunately, injuries have altered the script: Devin is unlikely to play with a reported high ankle sprain and Jason is on season-ending injured reserve because of his groin.

Harrell plans to be in attendance anyway, which is no surprise to her sons. After all, she’s always been there for them.

“Mom has been our biggest fan and the backbone to the family,” Devin says. “She has sacrificed so much for her kids that it’s been a blessing being able to accomplish things that she is proud of us for. I always hope when she sees us she can see her work in us.”

The McCourtys' charity work is well documented, with their primary focus sickle cell disease. They came up with the idea together after seeing the effects of sickle cell on an aunt, and what stands out about their approach is the fun they have and how they integrate Harrell -- also known on Twitter with her official account as “Mama McCourty” -- into the mix.

Harrell admits she’s still learning the ropes on social media.

“One of the biggest reasons to do it was to follow them, and see what they’re talking about on Twitter and Instagram,” she says. “All I can say is they are very funny. It’s very entertaining and a lot of fun.”

As for what her sons do on the field, Harrell has a unique way of splitting her time evenly to follow their careers. She attends only home games, so if you’re curious where she is on any given Sunday, the answer is either Nashville or Foxborough.

When the games are at the same time, she’ll rotate which she attends, following the other via the NFL app on her phone and the numerous text messages she always receives from friends and family. In those cases, she’ll often wear the half-Patriots, half-Titans jersey -- which she received as a gift from the players’ agents, Andy Simms and Wesley Spencer -- to show that she’s representing both of her sons.

Inevitably, she is asked the question about how the twins are alike and different.

“They are similar in that they are both very giving people, both very hard workers. You can bet if they say they are going to do something, they’re going to do it unless it’s some kind of emergency. So they are men of their word; both of them are fun-loving and I think lovable,” she says.

“As for how they are different, Jay is more of a talker. Devin talks a lot, but Jay is the talker. And then Jay is more of a homebody while Devin likes to party more.”

The twins had faced each other once before in the NFL, in the 2012 season opener at Tennessee. The Patriots recorded a 34-13 win that day.

Both played at Rutgers in college, and Jason is now in his seventh season after entering the NFL as a sixth-round draft choice of the Titans in 2009, while Devin in his sixth NFL season after the Patriots picked him in the first round of the 2010 draft.

Harrell recalled that in the fifth grade, both wrote a paper about what type of career they hoped to have, and both said the hope was to play in the NBA or NFL. By their junior year of college, they realized that dream might become a reality.

Both have since signed lucrative contracts as free agents, and one of the things they did to say thank you to their mother was buy her a dream home in New Jersey two years ago.

As their careers have blossomed, so too have things off the field. These are exciting times for the McCourty twins, as Jason and his wife welcomed their second child Dec. 8, while Devin is set to be married at the end of April. Their brother, Larry White, served in the military and is a big part of this story as well.

These are the type of things, no doubt, that make mom very proud.

“God has shined down upon us,” she says. “To me, they just turned out to be really, really good men."