By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Stephon Gilmore’s always been a pretty good cornerback, but his rise to the top of his craft has been rather accelerated.READ MORE: Melrose Seeks To 'Deemphasize' Halloween In Classrooms, Hold 'Inclusive' Fall Events
Nothing lays that reality out more than these two facts: Gilmore landed on the NFL Network’s Top 100 list for the first time in his career, coming in at No. 22. And he made it count, too, as he was voted by his peers as the best cornerback in football.
The 28-year-old cornerback can now add that distinction to his list of honors from the 2018 season, a busy list that already includes a First Team All-Pro, a Pro Bowl, and of course, a Super Bowl-sealing interception.
Jason McCourty, who was new to the Patriots last season, explained the Patriots’ defensive game plan with regard to the usage of Gilmore.
“We would get our game plan, and Steph’s matchup would be like, ‘All right, Steph, you got him. The rest of the guys are going to go over here and play defense.’ Like, you just got him,” McCourty said. “Being a corner, I’m like, that’s tough. He would much rather have it that way; let me just go guard the best player on the field, and just go take him out the game.”
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Defensive lineman Mike Daniels, who played against the Patriots as a Packer last season, gushed about Gilmore’s interception of Jared Goff in Super Bowl LIII, a game where Gilmore was at the top of his game.READ MORE: Young Crowd Eager To Attend Harry Styles Concert In Boston, But Are There COVID Concerns?
“He had his mind-set that y’all are not going to getting into the end zone today. It’s not happening today,” Daniels said. “That snatches your soul, because that lets you know there’s nothing we can do. We had it; they took it from us.”
The NFL Network video concluded with a clip of Bill Belichick celebrating with Gilmore after that Super Bowl victory, with Belichick telling Gilmore, “Hell of a play. That’s why you’re here.”
What’s perhaps most unique about the rising star of Gilmore is that unlike many top cornerbacks who have come before him, Gilmore’s gone about his business rather quietly. He’s not boastful off the field, and he’s not particularly demonstrative on the field. Call him football’s version of Kawhi Leonard, in that sense.
Because of that quiet demeanor, it would be easy for Gilmore’s play to get overlooked. But in a season that was capped off with a Super Bowl win where the Patriots allowed just three points against the No. 2 scoring offense in the NFL, it was simply impossible for Gilmore to be ignored any longer. (Lest it be forgotten, a year prior, it was a pass breakup by Gilmore that officially locked up a Super Bowl berth for the Patriots, too.)
And, as a positive for the Patriots, it appears as though Gilmore’s maintained his elite level through the offseason, as early reports from training camp indicate that Gilmore has yet to allow even one single reception through the first batch of practice sessions. Suffice it to say, this won’t be the last time that Gilmore ends up on this list.MORE NEWS: Concord-Carlisle High School Teacher Accused Of Using Racist Slur Put On Leave