A walk through the Seaport Common this month will take passersby through a series of tall, black-and-white portraits. The canvases that line the sidewalks feature the faces of public figures as well as former gang members. Among those showcased is Patriots safety Devin McCourty.
The photo project — organized by Boston Uncornered, a local nonprofit — is intended to showcase the universal experience of feeling “cornered” and then becoming “uncornered.” Next to each portrait is a card that briefly explains a negative situation involving the subject and its resolution.
McCourty’s card, for example, explains the frustration he felt following his rookie year.
“I gave everything — mental and physical — to one dream, an NFL career,” he writes. “I had it in my grasp, and then I almost lost it. Going from a Pro Bowl cornerback to a guy with no position was terrifying. People with power over my future lost confidence in me. I worried I might fail, lose all my value, and disappoint my family. It was my brother who understood and reminded me to trust the process. His words and his faith UNCORNERED me.”
In a webinar Tuesday evening, McCourty elaborated on the difficult transition from his first to second year in the NFL. He remembers tuning into ESPN and listening to commentators praise him for his potential, only for things to take a turn the next season.
“You can basically put that skyrocket going straight down,” he said.
McCourty, now in his 11th season, credited his twin brother, Jason, for helping him navigate the adjustment, from phone conversations at 3 a.m. to visits throughout the playoffs leading up to his first Super Bowl appearance.
“For me growing up, having a twin brother really ‘uncornered’ me out of every situation I could be in because we got at each other so much and pushed each other and made sure we stayed on the right path,” he said.
There are 30 portraits on display as part of the Seaport exhibition. Some, such as Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and US Representative Ayanna Pressley, viewers may recognize. Others, such as Luis Rodrigues and Francisco Depina, might be unfamiliar. But the project’s organizers say the message remains the same no matter the subject.
“The ambition of showing these groups side by side is to remind the viewer that anyone and everyone has experienced the feeling of being cornered,” they wrote. “And that just the right intervention can change this, no matter who you are.”
McCourty is no stranger to Boston Uncornered, which pays former gang members to pursue a college education and stable employment. Last season, his customized cleats for the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” initiative were designed by a female student who had dropped out of school before completing her degree and finding a job through Boston Uncornered.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft also donated $100,000 to the nonprofit as part of his $1 million pledge to social justice causes.
McCourty planned to visit the display but put it on hold after the Patriots' recent string of positive coronavirus tests. The portraits will be on display until Oct. 30.
Nicole Yang can be reached at email@example.com.