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Disabato: McCormick feels right at home at St. Rita

St. Rita's Tom McCormick weaves through defenders his long touchdown run. | Patrick Gleas~ For Sun-Times Media

St. Rita's Tom McCormick weaves through defenders on his long, touchdown run. | Patrick Gleason ~ For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 12, 2012 11:50AM



If all would have gone as planned four years ago, Tom McCormick would be starting quarterback for Mount Carmel and directing its famed option attack on Friday against rival St. Rita.

It was back in 2009 when McCormick graduated from St. Christina School and made the decision to attend Mount Carmel, shocking friends and family.

It was pretty much a foregone conclusion McCormick was going to attend St. Rita.

“My mom wasn’t too happy,” McCormick recalled. “My grandparents (McCormicks) weren’t too pleased either.”

St. Rita coach Todd Kuska wasn’t doing “The Dougie” either.

“It caught me completely off guard,” Kuska said. “I was shocked.”

The disbelief was understandable.

McCormick’s father, Tom, is a St. Rita graduate. So is his brother, Joe, and four of his uncles — Dan, Kevin, Joe and Tim McCormick.

Young Tom was expected to follow. He shadowed at St. Rita and had taken the entrance exam.

He was going to be a “Rita man.”

Or maybe not.

“I wanted to be different,” McCormick, a senior said.

More than that, arguably, he wanted to follow in the footsteps of Mount Carmel quarterback Jordan Lynch, who has guided Northern Illinois’ football team to a 5-1 start.

“I talked to Jordan, who is a friend of my brother’s, and he kind of talked me into going to Mount Carmel,” McCormick said. “I was a running back at St. Christina, just like he was. Mount Carmel was going to make me a quarterback, just like they made him.”

Lynch had such an influence, McCormick wore No. 5 as a freshman at Mount Carmel — the same number as Lynch.

“I looked up to him,” McCormick said. “I enjoyed my freshman year at Mount Carmel. I liked the guys and the team. We were successful.”

Don Butkus, the Caravan’s current quarterback, was playing linebacker and backing up McCormick.

All was good in McCormick’s world — or so it appeared.

“Something was missing,” said McCormick, a Mount Greenwood resident. “I was into football at Mount Carmel, but football isn’t everything. I was so comfortable at St. Rita when I shadowed. I just felt like I wanted to be with people I’m comfortable with.

“I wanted to be a part of my family tradition and with all of my buddies at St. Rita.”

So McCormick transferred to St. Rita his sophomore year, surprising the Caravan faithful.

“The Mount Carmel kids wondered why the quarterback would transfer,” he recalled.

Ironically, McCormick isn’t St. Rita’s starting quarterback. That distinction is senior John Kelley’s. McCormick has been pretty much a jack of all trades at St. Rita.

He’s played safety, tight end, fullback, wide receiver and, yes, some quarterback.

McCormick is a play-maker, no matter where he lines up.

“Tom’s a great kid,” Kuska said. “He’s graciously accepted not being quarterback. He’s one of those kids that will do everything and anything for the team.

“Sometimes I feel bad asking him to play different positions, but he’s got to be on the field. Tom is a great teammate.”

McCormick admits at times he misses lining up behind center. When Kelley went down with an injury earlier in the season, McCormick was able to wet his appetite for a few games.

There are occasions when he’ll line up in the shotgun when the Mustangs run the Wildcat formation.

“Yeah, I miss it a little,” said McCormick, 6-foot-1, 210 pounds. “John (Kelley) is one of my best friends. He’s done very good job. I don’t consider myself a dead-on quarterback anymore. I like to be versatile and play other positions. I just want to play where I’m needed.”

McCormick acknowledges that Friday’s game against the Caravan holds greater significance. Many of the players on Mount Carmel’s roster were one-time teammates of his.

But if there’s any trash talking, it will come from the Caravan, not McCormick.

“I always shut my mouth on the field,” he said. “I like when kids talk. I’m still friends with Mount Carmel’s kids off the field.

“There’s a little more incentive. Getting to five wins and the playoffs is what I’m thinking about first. But also, I want to prove people wrong and show that I made the right decision to go to Rita.”

Does he ever wonder what would have been if he had stayed at Mount Carmel? If he would have remained at quarterback? And, if so, where would that have left Butkus?

“It never enters my mind,” McCormick said. “Butkus is doing a great job. Mount Carmel is real good. But I feel like I made the best decision of my life transferring to Rita. I wouldn’t change one thing. I’m a Rita man.”



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