Etched into History: Andrew McCormick
“I enjoyed playing, so I just played,” said Andrew McCormick with a small grin.
It sounds simple, doesn’t it?
Well, it’s not.
Football is a constant grind. You hear basketball players say, “Ball is life” all the time. Baseball is America’s favorite pastime.
At the high school level, playing just one of those sports at a high level is extremely difficult. You have to have God-given gifts: size, athleticism, agility, and coordination. You have to pair those traits with mental intangibles: resilience, coach-ability, and a hunger for improvement that cannot be satisfied.
Plus, each sport is a huge commitment. These sports go year-round now; there is no time off.
Andrew McCormick played and excelled in all three sports on the varsity level for three years. He was a hard-hitting inside linebacker in football, a tough and gritty forward in basketball, and a powerful outfielder in baseball. He did what now seems borderline-impossible, and because of what he did, he is the latest legend to leave his stamp on the 150 years of St. X’s rich tradition. He worked hard in the classroom and put his heart and soul into the name on the front of his jersey, whether it was football, basketball, or baseball. He showed everyone what it means to be a Saint Xavier Tiger, and that will not be soon forgotten.
McCormick’s athletic life began at St. Raphael The Archangel Catholic School, where he attended grade school from kindergarten to eighth grade. He wasn’t much different back then, says Bobby Martin, a fellow 2010 and 2014 graduate of St. Raphael and St. X, respectively. Martin was McCormick’s teammate in football and basketball at both schools. The two have been best friends since they were both five years old.
“Andrew was pretty much the same in grade school,” Martin says. “He had a lot friends and played every sport possible and excelled in all of them.”
As he got older and began playing AAU basketball and baseball, McCormick thought he may be able to play in high school. Martin says he knew McCormick would do something special at St. X.
“He was very good at all sports, especially baseball,” Martin explains. “I knew he would do well at St. X because both of his brothers (Patty and Michael) were successful there.”
Patty had a big impact on his younger brother as his football and basketball coach at St. Raphael. Andrew says he had a lot of coaches during his childhood who pushed him to be the best he could be. However, there were no bigger motivators than his own family. McCormick is part of a family that is ingrained in Saint Xavier. His two brothers were football players and he has several cousins and other relatives who attended St. X. Although he says there wasn’t any pressure to replicated the successes of his family members, he did have to meet a standard.
“It’s just expected that you give your best effort in whatever you do,” McCormick explains.
The only personal goal McCormick had entering St. X was winning a state championship in football. Tiger Football had just reached the top of the plateau during his eighth grade year, and football was his main sport.
He didn’t know it at the time, but he would meet family expectations and more. He played football, basketball, and baseball during his freshman year, and after solid years in all three, he looked to make the jump to varsity the next year. Not many players are skilled enough to play on the varsity level as sophomores, but McCormick felt he was ready.
As sophomore year began, McCormick became a varsity member of the football team. He would earn varsity time on the basketball team as well as become a regular on the varsity scene for new head coach Andy Porta and the baseball team. However, he would eventually realize that he might have bitten off more than he could chew. McCormick hit a wall during his sophomore year.
“Sophomore year, that was my toughest year,” McCormick says. “I was trying to play varsity in all three sports. I was trying to get more playing time in football. It was a tough year in school, and I didn’t do very well. I really had to grow up.”
Beyond his family, McCormick credits a couple of people with keeping him on the right track during the tough times in his second year at St. X. Charles Walker, a standout football star in his time at St. X, was also McCormick’s teammate in basketball for three years. John Jefferson was the head baseball coach during McCormick’s freshman season, and he also taught McCormick’s freshman math class. Walker gave McCormick words of encouragement, while Jefferson offered wise advise.
“Charles was always pushing me to give everything I had. He always told me play my hardest,” McCormick says with a nostalgic tone. “Coach J was always about not listening to what other people say, not playing for anybody else but yourself. He told me, ‘You have to keep playing until you’re not having fun, no matter what sport it is.’ Both of them really helped me a lot.”
Heading into his junior year, McCormick knew he needed to change some things. He needed to approach daily life differently.
“The summer of junior year was when I realized I needed to change,” McCormick says. “I needed to take care of business in school and try to get everything I could out of every day.”
He considered not playing basketball his junior year so he could focus on football more. But he decided against it, and he’s glad he did.
“Maybe my future would be different if I had stopped (playing) basketball,” McCormick says. “But I don’t regret playing basketball at all. I had fun doing it.”
McCormick says his junior year was when his teammates really began to have an impact on him. He played with several athletes who would go on to receive athletic scholarships in college. In football, he played under fellow linebacker Seth Combs, who now plays for the Army Black Knights, and Patrick Sermersheim, who now plays safety for the University of Kentucky. In basketball, he played with Alex Jones, who is now balling for Transylvania University, and he banged in the post with Brock Kiesler, who is now playing at Wittenburg University. In baseball, he had the pleasure of not having to face Sam Melchior and Ben Britt, who ended up pitching for Western and Eastern Kentucky, respectively. He took batting practice with Austin Clemons, who is heading to the University of Louisville in the fall. All of those guys helped him immensely, from being brothers lending a helping hand to being mentors teaching him valuable lessons.
“Those guys all had a common way of doing things, and that was they gave everything they had in everything they did,” McCormick says. “It rubbed off on me, and I kind of picked that up as my own mentality.”
“All these guys had a great time doing it,” McCormick explains. “I learned quickly from them that you can have fun and play hard at the same time. They taught me that your hard work will eventually pay off.”
Junior year came and went, and McCormick took the next step in all three sports. He played well in an increased role in all three. However, he was still without something. He had worked so hard the past three years, yet he had no hardware to show for it. His initial dream of winning a football state championship remained unfulfilled, and he only had one more year to accomplish what he’d set out to do three years earlier.
Heading into his final year as a Tiger, McCormick had a sense of urgency that he didn’t have previously. If he wanted to reach his goals, it was now or never. And he would have to lead the charge.
“Going into senior year, you recognize that you’re the leader and people are going to look up to you,” McCormick explains. “I was always trying to have fun, but senior year is a little bit different. You realize that it’s your last shot.”
McCormick’s senior year coincided with a huge change within the Tiger Football program. After leading Saint Xavier Football for 31 years, Head Coach Mike Glaser stepped down, and notable Former Tiger Will Wolford became the new head honcho. McCormick says that while Glaser was no longer roaming the sidelines, he was still always there for him.
“He was still my coach,” McCormick says with a big smile. “He just wasn’t out on the field. He would always talk to me everyday, asking questions and telling me what to do.”
The football season began with high hopes, as many believed St. X was the favorite to win the state title. They had a senior transfer quarterback from Tennessee, B.J. Nagle, and a three headed monster in the backfield with Treyveon Percell, Charles Walker, and Austin Davis. The defense would introduce a brand new 3-4 scheme that would feature four ferocious linebackers: McCormick, Spencer Foy, Wes Parker, and Evan Caffee. The Tigers were ready to attack with vengeance.
However, the season did not go the way St. X hoped. Percell tore his right ACL early in the season, Nagle and his offensive line were plagued with inconsistent play, and Walker and Davis were nicked up all year. St. X finished with a 6-6 record, and a loss to Male High School in the quarterfinals of the state tournament ended its season.
After the clock struck zero on the Tigers’ season, McCormick was stunned. He had fallen short of the one thing he wanted to do at St. X.
“It was devastating. I was devastated for, like, a week,” McCormick says. “I didn’t want to do anything or talk to anyone.”
His senior year of basketball ended with a loss as well, as St. X fell to arch rival Trinity in the first round of the regional tournament. He was stunned once again.
“When basketball ended, I thought, ‘That’s the last basketball game I will ever play,'” McCormick remembers. “It was tough.”
At that point, McCormick had gone through 11 seasons. All the time in the weight room. All the wins and losses. All the struggles. And nothing to show for it.
Heading into the spring, McCormick made his decision on where he would continue his life after St. X. He elected to take his talents to Dayton University and play linebacker for the Flyers. After he made his college decision, he had one more season to finish: baseball. But he wasn’t sure if he wanted to go through another grind.
“I was worried about Dayton, and I was worried about missing out on the rest of my senior year,” McCormick explains. “I had been going for four years, and I was exhausted. The thought of starting a baseball made me want to throw up.”
As the baseball season crept closer and closer, McCormick’s family gave him the push he needed.
“My brother Patty told me, ‘You can’t worry about the future. Live in the moment and enjoy every day,'” McCormick says. “The night before I started practice, my mom said to me, ‘What if they win state? How are you going to feel?'”
His mom had a good point. Tiger Baseball was also primed to make a deep run into the state tournament. They had Austin Clemons, who was a favorite to win Kentucky Mr. Baseball, and the most positional depth in recent team history. McCormick had close bonds with many of the other seniors on the team, including Miles Lee, Clemons, and Hayden Ford. He decided that he didn’t want to miss out on a wild ride. He would later find out that he probably made the right choice.
However, early on, St. X faced adversity. Clemons, the anchor of the team, went down with a torn ACL in the team’s 18th game against Eastern High School. He was a destructive force in the middle of the order, and he was a weapon on defense, versatile enough to both play catcher and any infield position. The team would have to go the second half of the season without its star. They hit some rough patches here and there, but the Tigers’ depth kept them in the title chase. After losing to Male in the district championship, St. X began the road to glory. They could not lose another game, or the season would be over. Saint Xavier had not won a baseball state championship in 33 years, but if McCormick wanted a ring on his finger before he left Louisville, he would have to end the drought.
“I don’t want to say I knew it was going to happen, but I had a really good feeling that this was our year,” McCormick says. “I don’t know why, but I did.”
The “it” he is referring to is the magical run the Tigers had. They defeated Trinity at University of Louisville Patterson Stadium to win the seventh region title for the fourth straight year and headed to Lexington to play in the Rawlings/KHSAA Baseball State Tournament at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. There, St. X won three games to advance to their first state championship game since 1981.
He was finally there. He was one game away from capturing that elusive ring. He had devoted the last four years of his life to getting to this very point. It wasn’t football, but it would suffice. The only obstacle standing between him and his title was the Simon Kenton Pioneers. He was not leaving the stadium that night without the proper finish to the season.
The Pioneers put up a fight, but McCormick and his best friend Ford drove in runs to secure the championship. St. X defeated Simon Kenton 5-2 and snapped the 33-year dry spell. McCormick was named tournament MVP; he was named the most valuable player on a team he almost didn’t play for. It was done. McCormick had already graduated, so his time as a member of Saint Xavier High School was over. But it had ended right. He fondly remembers the moment when Tiger Centerfielder Sam Springer caught the last out.
“Honestly, my first thought was ‘Get to the dog pile as fast as possible,'” McCormick recalls as he lets loose a loud laugh. He then pauses, looks down for a moment, and looks back up. “Everything just stopped. Being with my team and those guys after all we had been through, losing Clem and losing to Male 10-0 and losing to DeSales and being out of it, meant the world to me.”
Later that night, as the team was celebrating, it really hit McCormick. He had climbed the mountain. He could now rest easy and look back at his time as a Tiger and not have any regrets.
“I really don’t know how to describe it because all I ever knew was ending a season with a loss. It’s such a weird feeling,” McCormick says with a raised voice and a huge grin. He pauses to gather himself and find the right words. “It’s the most reassuring thing in the world to know that I all ever did paid off. I felt so happy and satisfied with myself and what I had done.”
Looking back on what he accomplished as a Tiger, McCormick says he definitely couldn’t have done it alone.
“I had a lot of help,” McCormick explains. “My coaches were very helpful. They let me come in just weeks before the seasons started and gave me extra attention. They put up with a lot of stuff. My teammates were so welcoming. They could have just as easily shut me off. But they didn’t.”
He smiles and laughs as he says, “I was lent my baseball bat, glove, and cleats. Those weren’t even mine. I couldn’t have done anything without my teammates.”
McCormick made a profound impact on so many people, and many of his coaches and teammates will always remember their times with him.
“Andrew is one of the finest student-athletes I have coached at St. X,” says Kevin Klein, head coach of the Saint Xavier basketball team. “His talent, character, work ethic, and leadership will be greatly missed. I have the utmost respect for Andrew, and his teammates loved having him as a part of our program for four years. I am amazed by what Andrew was able to accomplish in 12 seasons and not sure I will ever coach another player who can excel in three sports the way Andrew did. The University of Dayton is lucky to get him.”
“Andrew is one of the finest young men that I have ever coached,” says Glaser. “He is a player, someone who loves playing the game and being with his teammates. No frills: no wristbands, no batting gloves, etc. He spits on his hands and goes to work every day because he loves the game. He loved playing. St. X was fortunate to have him. He is like a son to me, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
“Andrew McCormick obviously did a lot to help the [baseball] team win state; he hit .500 in Lexington and made two fantastic diving catches, but it’s the little things that a casual observer wouldn’t notice that set Andrew apart,” explains Porta. “For example, when we made a pitching change in the semifinal game against North Bullitt, Andrew ran in from left field to give Grant Wessling a pep talk. Usually, infielders do that, but Andrew took it upon himself to be a leader and impact the game even from the outfield. This year Andrew was very relaxed and just played the game. He knew he was going to Dayton to play football so he didn’t need to put pressure on himself to impress anyone. Ironically, he actually did impress everyone by his play and had an incredible senior season. His attitude and leadership will be greatly missed.”
“I respect Andrew because of how hard he works all the time,” Clemons says. “He’s always trying to make himself better.”
“Andrew is all around a great guy,” says Walker. “For being as athletic and intelligent as he is, he walks about in such a humble way and is friends with everyone. He’s a hard worker and never lets others out-prepare him. His determination and will to be the best is why he was so successful at St. X”
“Andrew has always been a loyal friend to me,” explains Martin. “The reason I respect him is because he cares about everyone on his team and is a true leader on and off the field. He wanted to win so badly and never let himself give up, even when it was extremely hard to.”
After briefly flirting with an opportunity to walk-on at the University of Kentucky in baseball, McCormick is locked in and headed to Dayton. He goes to the new setting with fellow 2014 St. X graduates Ben Grimes, who won three lacrosse state titles in four years as a long-stick midfielder, and Keaton Stewart, so he won’t be completely alone when he sets foot on campus in the fall. Although he is leaving all he has ever known for the last four years, McCormick knows he is ready to move on with what he has gained.
“I’m blessed,” McCormick says. “It’s tough that I’m moving away from St. X, but I know that playing all these sports and going through school has made me a better person, and it’s going to help me out in the future.”
“When you put your heart into a sport, you get emotions back, and I think those feelings will rest with me for a long time,” McCormick says. “There are good memories and bad memories, but you try not to dwell on the negative things and rejoice about the good times you had.”
The overall experience McCormick had has shaped him as a person. He says it’s the best thing he has ever done in his life, and he has learned so much from the people on 1609 Poplar Level Road.
“I’ve been disciplined by St. X. As serious as people think St. X sports are, I’ve learned that there is always a time to have fun and enjoy it,” McCormick explains. “It comes down to when you can play for Saint Xavier, wear St. X on your jersey in three different sports, play with so many great teammates and coaches, it’s awesome, really.”
“It’s definitely something I’m proud of,” McCormick says. “I’m glad I did it. I enjoyed it, and that’s the big thing.”
To any young future Tigers out there, McCormick thinks what he did can certainly be done again.
“I don’t think anyone should think they can’t do it,” McCormick says. “It’s tough, but you have people you can fall back on all the time, like family and great teammates and coaches.”
McCormick won’t be wandering the halls of Saint Xavier High School anymore, but he will never be forgotten. What he did was truly legendary, and he hopes St. X students can find inspiration in what he did.
“It feels good to know that what I did at St. X left a mark,” McCormick says, looking into the distance. “What St. X gave me, I took and used it, and I improved myself as a person. I guess that’s the whole mission of Saint Xavier. I bought in, and I hope other guys will buy in, because you really find what St. X means when you put forth effort and make the most out of what happens to you at St. X.”
[All photos by Jacob Hayslip]