McCormick brothers return home, get big win

Hundreds of friends and family made the trip to Reno to watch Sean (middle) and Tommy (far right) McCormick play against Nevada on Saturday. A large crowd gathered outside the team’s locker room as they congratulated the brothers.

Hundreds of friends and family made the trip to Reno to watch Sean (middle) and Tommy (far right) McCormick play against Nevada on Saturday. A large crowd gathered outside the team’s locker room as they congratulated the brothers.
Photo by Thomas Ranson.

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Football seemed like a foreign language to Missy McCormick around the dinner table.

Her sons, Sean and Tommy, and husband, Tom, would talk X’s and O’s non-stop and when Ryan McCormick, their uncle, would stay the night during his college breaks, the talks intensified. Both Missy and her daughter, Megan, often felt left out of the conversation.

“It got to the point where Missy had to institute a ‘no football talk’ policy at the dinner table, because she felt left out,” Ryan said. “ In those conversations, the boys could talk and understand the game at the same level as Tom and I. I'm talking at ages 10 and 12 they could understand very complex concepts.”

But Missy didn’t take any offense because of the bond it created.

“It has been just a joy to watch them love the sport of football,” she said. “ For me to be on the sidelines and watch the connection between Sean, Tommy, Tom and Ryan, and how tight they are, it’s been a tremendous joy and blessing to have these kids share something with Tom. It’s fun to listen to them talk about their experiences about what they’re doing and what they’re learning. It’s been fun to see them really blossom at the college level and watch their interviews and conduct themselves as young men.”

The McCormick brothers started young in the Fallon Youth Football League, played multiple sports, including wrestling and baseball, and grew up watching Chris Ault revolutionize football with the Pistol offense.

They hoped that one day they would be on the same field as another duo of Fallon greats in Harvey Dahl and Josh Mauga. But that day never came, at least in a Wolf Pack uniform.

Sean and Tommy McCormick, who led Fallon to its last state football title five years ago, returned to Northern Nevada on Saturday as Idaho, which is nationally ranked in the FCS, thumped Nevada, 33-6, in the Wolf Pack’s home opener at Mackay Stadium.

Sean McCormick is playing his final season at Idaho, seeing action on special teams and backing up his brother, Tommy, on defense. (Thomas Ranson photo)

 After both brothers arrived at the stadium, completed their team walkthrough and warmups, they were front and center, leading the Vandals onto the field from the south end zone. The cherry on the top was Sean led the team with the battle ax, which was given to him by last week’s player of the game.

“I thought that was an awesome gesture to show how well those guys are respected,” Idaho coach Scott Eck said. “I’m happy they stuck with us because we have a new coaching staff. They’re such high-end students. I’m so glad to have those guys back. I’m so happy for them to get a win in front of their friends and family.”

Sean compared Saturday’s experience to playing at the Edward Arciniega Athletic Complex because of the crowd.

“In a lot of ways, it felt like a high school game where there were that many people I knew who were going to be there. I’ve never had a crowd like that supporting me at a game, ever,” Sean added. “You could hear it. They traveled well and we had a ton of people come and support us. I felt it. It was a cool experience to be there in Mackay and playing on that field in front of a lot of people who watched me play in high school.”

Tommy was relieved the moment had finally arrived.

“There was a lot of anticipation waiting for that time,” said Tommy, who couldn’t stop smiling outside of the team’s locker room after the game. “Once I got out there, everything left my head, I felt focused and free and was ready to play. It was probably the funnest game I’ve ever played. I was smiling all day. The whole defense was flying around and when you’re playing well, it makes the game more fun.”


During the 2010 season that saw Nevada upset the Broncos and defeat Boston College in the Emerald Bowl, the Colin Kaepernick-led Wolf Pack destroyed Idaho, 63-17.

But this is not the same Idaho program that Nevada used to pound every year when both teams played in the Western Athletic Conference.

The Vandals nearly beat two FBS teams last year and upset highly-ranked Montana State on the road before falling in the final possession to Sac State, whose coach is now at Stanford. Idaho made the playoffs for the first time since dropping to the FCS level in 2018.

This year, expectations are greater.

“I thought last season was a great first step in the right direction,” Tommy said. “With a brand new coaching staff coming in, there were a lot of questions about how our season was going to turn out. We learned in the first game of the season that we had a very competitive team that could really do something.”

Tommy, who’s younger than Sean by a year, had a breakout sophomore campaign last fall. He tallied four interceptions and 61 tackles. Sean, who backs up his brother at strong safety, sees most of his action on special teams, including a blocked punt against Penn State during his freshman year, and has been a consistent force as he enters his final year with the program.

Both brothers were named to the All-Big Sky team last fall.

“For me personally, I thought last season was a blossoming year,” Tommy added. “I made improvements in all parts of my game and was able to be a contributing factor to our team’s success. While we had our first winning season in many years last year, we felt as if we didn’t live up to our true potential. That is something that the whole team has carried with them throughout this offseason in training and practices. I could tell a huge difference in the focus, attitude, and leadership our team had for the last couple months to make sure that we become the best team we can be.”

Like his time spent in the offseason while playing for the Greenwave, Sean said the team put in countless hours before this season and he has a good feeling that Idaho will continue its run from last year.

“Last season, we saw a lot of success under the new coaching staff and probably surprised a few people by making our first FCS playoff game in years,” he said. “It was great to make the playoffs, but as a team we knew we could take it further. This offseason we spent countless hours in the weight room and on the field preparing for this season and now that we're finally here I can’t wait to see what this team can do.”


Athletics run deep in the McCormick family and the success that follows.

Sean and Tommy’s father, Tom, played for the Greenwave before competing for Carroll College’s football team recently inducted into the school’s athletics hall of fame. Their uncle, Ryan, also played college football at Carroll as did their older sister Megan, who shined on the diamond.

But this edition of the McCormicks is the first to excel on the Division I landscape.

Both were not recruited by the former Nevada coaching staff, which struggled to keep the local talent from leaving the Silver State. Ex-Greenwave lineman Ben Dooley, who graduated with Sean in 2019, is in his junior season at Boise State. Several others are competing in lower levels of college football.

Fallon coach Brooke Hill said Dooley was the only one who was looked at by Nevada. It was puzzling how the McCormicks were overlooked by Nevada. But Nevada’s loss ended up being Idaho’s gain.

“I never really had any contact from Nevada about Sean or Tommy, and we were 60 miles away. They were recruiting Ben hard,” Hill said. “They’re really focused on their team. That’s a team that can make a run in the FCS. They have the ability to come to FBS school and hometown university and have a shot to knock them out. That would be a special thing to do.”

Tom and Missy let their boys create their own path toward success.

“Nevada didn’t show any interest. So we were going to the places showing interest,” she said. “They got more excited about the other places. It was all about finding the right fit for the boys.”

After Sean, Fallon’s only four-time state wrestling champ, signed on at Idaho and played on offense during his freshman year before switching to defense, Tommy followed suit and was easily convinced to join his brother. He, too, went through the recruiting process, and both parents were bracing to split time watching each play at different schools.

“Tommy went through the whole recruiting process, set up the camps and he went everywhere,” Tom said of his youngest, who won three state titles on the wrestling mat. “We weren’t pressuring Tommy and he wanted to make a decision and feel comfortable.”

Tom and Missy have made every Idaho game – sometimes one without the other – since Tommy joined the Vandal program in 2020.


Both brothers still follow the Greenwave, who are looking to get back to the state championship game for the first time since 2019 when Fallon fell to Fernley in Tommy’s final year.

While they have moved on from their high school playing days, there’s no feeling like playing football on Friday nights.

“Getting to spend Friday nights with your best friends playing a game you love is pretty special, and it doesn’t last forever,” said Sean, who encourages this year’s group to cherish these moments. “Some of my best memories came from high school football so I would never take that for granted. The biggest advice I would give to any hopeful college athlete, regardless of sport, is to go to a school that values you. It can be easy to get caught up in the different divisions but at the end of the day, pick a school that makes an effort and shows that they want you.”

Said Tommy: “The biggest advice I would give is to have intent with everything that you do. It is very important to focus on getting better every day and not just going through the motions. And lastly, for the seniors is to not have any regrets. Senior year flies by and you don’t want to look back thinking you could have worked harder or gave better effort out on the field.”

And Sean is living by those words in his final season as a Vandal before he begins to pursue a career in the medical field, just like his father. He’ll finish his undergraduate degree this year and will spend time getting everything in order before applying for medical school. His brother will have another year but a similar path awaits Tommy as he will also apply toward medical school.

But until then, the McCormick brothers plan on enjoying every last moment this season as this will be the final time both play football together.


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