Down 19-6 at halftime last week to Louisiana Tech, UTSA running backs coach Julian Griffin pulled his starting running back, Sincere McCormick, aside and asked: “Are you really the nation’s leading rusher or are you just another running back?”
The Roadrunners’ star sophomore sputtered in the first half, totaling just 30 yards on 12 carries. Griffin hoped to create a spark. That’s when the usually serene sophomore back showed some bite: “I’ll show you,” McCormick said. McCormick carried the ball 10 times on UTSA’s touchdown drive to open the second half. He’d finish the game with 165 yards and three touchdowns, toting the ball 37 times, the most of any back in the FBS this season. The Roadrunners won, 27-26.
“We rode him for sure,” Griffin said. “The passion, the fire. He just gets it done. There’s nothing more you can say. It’s beautiful.”
McCormick leads the nation with 867 yards rushing. Nobody is even within 150 yards of him. Part of that is UTSA being seven games through the season. But McCormick is also averaging 5.6 yards per carry to complement his volume and is second in the FBS in missed tackles forced, according to PFF College.
McCormick isn’t going to pretend he’s not excited. He fought for this. He’d tell you he worked out on Christmas Day while his friends opened presents. He’d tell you about the struggles he and his family endured growing up in California. He’d admit he harbors doubts about how good he actually is. He’d tell you about being ignored as a recruit.
He’ll get to all that. First, the San Antonio-area product is focused on UTSA and the city he calls home.
“I’m not about to be complacent,” McCormick told 247Sports. “My ultimate goal is to put UTSA on the map.”
Football is a brutal sport. And running back is a brutal position. They’re hit when they touch the ball and they’re hit when they don’t, since they’re utilized as a blocker on those downs.
Griffin jokes he should’ve rented a truck and put an ice bath in the back to ship McCormick home after career workload. McCormick never really needed it. He felt fine the next day. How could he not? His mom’s example would allow him to feel no less.
“No matter how hard things got for me, I was able to face it because a strong woman like her was my motivation for everything I go through in life,” McCormick said.
Precious Thompson had McCormick at 15 years old. She admits they grew up together. McCormick was born in Long Beach, Calif., but spent time across the state as the family moved from place to place and job to job. As McCormick says: “One of those stories: Had nothing and came to something.”
There were great times. Thompson used to strap on pillows and play in front yard with a fully-helmeted McCormick, helping her pee-wee star learn routes via YouTube. There were low moments. They were homeless at one point, living in the back of Thompson’s car on the lot of a construction site where she worked as a security guard. The trailer for the security team served as an extension of their cramped living quarters.
They were separated, too. McCormick once had to live with his dad in a situation he describes as “unstable.” He spent time with his grandma as well. Thompson never stopped working. She had a rule. Her kids would never see her cry.
“They only could see the strength in me,” Thompson said. “He’s seen I’m not going to let us stay down.”
Eventually they left California. First for Las Vegas and later for San Antonio, where Thompson is now a Walmart manager. She also has side hustle amidst the pandemic, cutting hair. McCormick happily showed off his braids on the call – Thompson’s handiwork.
McCormick would thrive in San Antonio, largely because of football.
Thinking back on his time at state power Converse Judson High School, located in a San Antonio suburb, McCormick still marvels at how the city of Converse would shut down on Friday nights. Everyone in the city knew the players, jersey or not. McCormick stood out even among the team’s talented roster. He ran for 1,211 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior while averaging 10.1 yards per carry. He improved as a senior, running for 1,505 and 22 touchdowns on 10.2 yards a tote, leading Judson to a 13-1 record in Texas’ highest classification.
Those are prolific numbers for anyone in Texas, especially in 6A. Yet McCormick’s recruitment came at a relative trickle. He had a few P-5 offers (Colorado, Syracuse) but even now, McCormick wants to clarify his feelings about that process: “For the record, I know I had those offers, but I felt like I was slept on.”
McCormick played on a stacked high school team with a roster that included five-star defensive lineman Demarvin Leal, who’d sign with Texas A&M. McCormick remembers coaches from across the country coming to his school: Clemson, Texas A&M, Alabama. His high school coaches would always pitch McCormick to the bluebloods, and they’d always agree to see him intrigued by his production and film.
Then McCormick would walk in the room, and the coaches, including Jimbo Fisher, seemed to only see one thing: 5-foot-9. “I’d walk in there excited and smiling,” McCormick said. “They’d look at me and I’d never hear from them again.”
Then-UTSA head coach Frank Wilson didn’t much care about McCormick’s size. He watched the film. The same coach who’d brought Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice to LSU offered McCormick before anyone. He stayed on McCormick, too, a constant amid a churn of coaches who’d say one thing and never follow up.
Eventually, McCormick and his Converse Judson teammate, Rashad Wisdom, decided they’d spurn out-of-state Power Five offers. They would stay home.
“I wanted to make everybody from San Antonio stay in San Antonio,” McCormick said.
Coming off a 983-yard true freshman season, McCormick asked Griffin an odd question early in fall camp: “Coach, do you really think I’m good?”
They’d underwent only a few practices together after COVID-19 restrictions wiped out almost all of spring ball, and Griffin was still feeling out how his new players would take coaching. So, he responded simply: “You’re OK. Better than you were yesterday.”
McCormick said “good” and walked away. That’s the moment Griffin knew McCormick could be special.
“A lot of people have goals,” Griffin said. “Some are outrageous. He just wanted to be better.”
More than anything, McCormick wants to be everything for his adopted hometown. He only arrived in 2014, but McCormick could have a profession in the Chamber of Commerce the way he talks about the city. For the record, he wants anyone who visits Converse to eat at El Sabrosito. It’s all about the tacos in San Antonio.
This desire to keep San Antonio players home aligns with the vision of first-year UTSA head coach Jeff Traylor, a former Texas high school coach who views the city as an undervalued talent gold mine. Traylor hopes to take five to seven San Antonio area scholarship players each cycle in addition to five to seven walk-on athletes. He’s turned the area code #210 into a brand for a fledgling program still only nine years into its existence. Traylor has a hell of a pitch for fans in the city, too.
“Come down to a 2:30 kick, maybe have a good concert after the game in the Alamodome, cruise on down to the Riverwalk and have a margarita or whatever your choice of drink – a glass of sweet tea – with some salsa and some chips,” Traylor said. “I’d sign up for that. We’re going to recruit for that and the brand of ball we play, trying to get some homegrown kids.”
McCormick, like New Orleans Saints first-round pick Marcus Davenport before him, is the face of that #210 branding effort.
That’s a burden, like all 37 carries last week, he’s prepared to take.
“I’m very comfortable,” McCormick said. “For Coach Traylor having people like me and Rashad putting on for the 210, it puts a big bright light on UTSA. It shows who we are and the foundation here.”