College Football: McCormick durable, dependable
By Mike London
SALISBURY — Players come and players go.
That’s the nature of college football. Programs have to rebuild or reload every year.
But Lewis McCormick defies time. The 22-year-old dinosaur seemingly has been around at Catawba’s Shuford Stadium as long as the blue seats and the goal posts.
After redshirting in 2011, McCormick became a rookie starter at left tackle in 2012, and he’s still there. He’s been nicked up, but he’s avoided serious injury. He’s the Cal Ripken Jr. of the Indians. When Catawba travels to Jefferson City. Tenn., to play Carson-Newman on Saturday, McCormick will start his 36th consecutive game. In the last 35, he’s been the key to Catawba’s pass protection.
Catawba quarterback Mike Sheehan is still in one piece largely because of McCormick, who patrols his blind side like a personal bodyguard.
“He’s been around a long time and he’s been a good player a long time,” Sheehan said. “You never have to worry about Lewis doing his job.”
Catawba knew McCormick could be a standout when they recruited him out of Greensboro’s Dudley High.
“I had good coaching in high school,” McCormick said. “I was fortunate to have coaches that constantly pushed me hard and challenged me to get better.”
McCormick was a sophomore on the Dudley team that overpowered A.L. Brown, 34-18, for the 2008 4A state championship. After he completed his high school career in the fall of 2010, a lot of schools were pursuing McCormick because he was an agile, 6-foot-4, 260-pounder with long arms and light feet.
Todd McComb, who was a Catawba assistant then, put in the hours that landed McCormick.
“Everyday, Coach McComb was calling,” McCormick said. “He’d ask me how my day was going and he made me feel like Catawba cared about me and really wanted me. And my family liked Catawba a lot because it was close.”
Neither Catawba nor McCormick has had any reason to regret his decision. He’s a 3.3 GPA student in the classroom while majoring in exercise science, and he’s been a rock on the field. His first major accolades should come this season. He was on the preseason All-SAC second team.
“When I got here, the offensive line was one of our youngest areas, but now, with players like Lewis, it’s one of our most mature areas,” Catawba coach Curtis Walker said. “The experience that he and his cohorts have gives us a chance to be successful.”
McCormick bumped his weight up to 290 after his redshirt year at Catawba, but later he cut back to 260. He learned that stamina and quickness were more critical to his job performance than sheer bulk.
McCormick was faced with a new challenge when Catawba played at Davidson on Saturday night.
Both of the Indians’ starting guards — Tim Pangburn and Quinzavious Sands — were sidelined by injury.
Backups Drew Morgan and C.J. Cain stepped in, and Catawba won, 35-21. The Indians got 192 ground yards from Cary Littlejohn (one of the top 10 rushing games in school history) and 86 more from Eamon Smart.
“Running the ball like that is all about timing,” McCormick said. “It’s about adjusting to their fronts and knowing who to block and when to block them. Our guards stepped up big and took hold of things. We worked well together and surprised some people.”
Catawba will try to surprise more people Saturday at Carson-Newman. McCormick said he likes being the underdog and is looking forward to the challenge.
In his prep days, McCormick never got to upset anyone because Dudley was expected to win.
“He came to Catawba from a high school with a great tradition and great work ethic,” Walker said. “You always want winners on your team, and he’s known how to win since high school.”