It’s safe to say Idaho nickelback Sean McCormick is used to playing multiple positions on the football field.
In high school at Churchill County in Fallon, Nev., McCormick played quarterback, running back and safety. He was recruited as a receiver after attending a camp with the Vandals and joined the team in 2019.
Then in fall camp, he switched to nickel.
No problem for the 5-foot-9, 176-pound Swiss Army knife. McCormick did enough in fall camp to earn a starting spot in the secondary and nabbed a 35-yard interception in UI’s opener against Simon Fraser, an NCAA Division II team. He also was in on a sack in the 68-0 victory this past Saturday.
“It was good to see him get a pick because he worked his butt off all fall camp, and it was good to see him make a big play,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. “He had a big day.”
McCormick’s interception set Idaho up on the SFU 22-yard line early in the third quarter. The drive led to an Aundre Carter touchdown and a 54-0 Vandal lead.
UI nickels coach Ray Clark said what stands out about McCormick most are his intangibles — his work ethic and mentality. He’s the type of player willing to do whatever is asked of him.
“He started off (and) he was kind of raw at the position, but he’s progressed all camp and then it was good to see him have a good game this past Saturday, make some plays, so it’s all coming together,” Clark said.
McCormick said the first few days of camp were the hardest as he learned the defensive philosophy and shook off the rust.
“The first few days, I had to get back used to backpedaling, breaking on the ball,” McCormick said. “But I was lucky enough to play some safety in high school, so it wasn’t completely new to me. Within a few days of getting some reps, I was able to get more comfortable.”
McCormick and his brother Tommy — a freshman safety also in the starting mix in the secondary — are one of five sets of brothers on this year’s UI team.
The McCormick brothers played two seasons of varsity together at Churchill County and each ended up being recruited by Idaho.
When Sean still was at receiver, him and Tommy often would go one-on-one against each other in practice.
“It’s a different level up here, so to have the opportunity to play at the same time is awesome,” Sean McCormick said. “I know our parents love to see us on the field at the same time, and I love it too. I definitely don’t take it for granted.”
Petrino joked that he’ll have to start getting Sean’s names right after he had a big day against Simon Fraser. The UI coach often calls Sean “Tommy.”
“I always call him Tommy, so now I’ll call him Sean,” Petrino said, chuckling. “His brother’s Tommy (and) his dad’s name was Tommy, so that’s my excuse.”
Multiple sport athletes, Sean and Tommy each were two-time state wrestling champions for Churchill County. The duo also played baseball.
“They were both wrestlers in high school, state champions, and they kind of have that ‘get-after you’ mentality,” Clark said.
Spots in UI’s secondary still are up for grabs, so the McCormicks will have another opportunity to try to secure their roles Saturday against a much tougher opponent in Indiana. The Hoosiers are looking for their first win of the season after falling to Iowa in a battle of Football Bowl Subdivision ranked foes in Week 1.
“I think we gotta go in there not getting too caught up with all the hype,” Sean McCormick said. “Of course, it’s going to be on live TV, packed stadium (almost 53,000 fans). But at the end of the day, we just have to go out there and play football … not get too worried about the outcome and give ourselves a chance in the game.”
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