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July 3, 2024

Drew McCormick: the Ottawa REDBLACKS’ hidden gem

Drew McCormick is one of the hardest-working people in the entire Ottawa REDBLACKS organization, but is likely the most underappreciated by outsiders.

When the team steps onto the field every week, everything is always near perfection. The decals on the helmet are placed just right, everyone has each piece of equipment they need, and no stone is left unturned, just as fans expect. Serving as the Head Equipment Manager since 2021, McCormick’s team consists of only three people, one of whom is an intern.

Football comes with a unique set of challenges compared to the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League, for example, where the roster is about 25 players. During training camp earlier this season, McCormick and his small team were charged with looking after about 115 players. It’s more than just helmets and cleats, too, everything a player wears on the field at one point or another comes from McCormick’s equipment room, which is adjoined to the locker room.

The roster now consists of about 70 players, about all of whom McCormick remembers an insane amount of detail, including shoe size, preferred type of gloves, helmet brand, and many other details the average fan would never think about.

All of that information needs to be locked away in his head, because sometimes, there is no time to waste when a player needs something.

“We need to know where everything is at a precise second, because Dru Brown might come in with 30 seconds before they’re going out onto the field asking for something,” McCormick said. “Well, if he doesn’t have it, he might miss a play, and we can’t afford that.”

McCormick’s job doesn’t end with equipment, however. Believe it or not, on practice day, he’s on the field, armed with a strict schedule and an air horn, responsible for ensuring things run as planned.

“When I started, I had no idea that was a thing,” McCormick said. “I did not know it was going to be that involved. On my first day, my feet were sore, and my legs were tired. Training camp was right after Victoria Day, so it was hot. I was like, holy cow, what am I getting myself into?”

Thankfully, he was able to adapt quickly, thanks largely to his upbringing, and parent-instilled work ethic.

“My family is a bunch of dairy farmers,” he explained. “ My parents are extremely hardworking, so I grew up working hard. I was determined that I was going to be the best at what I did. So if these pop-ups needed to be moved, I was gonna move them as fast as possible. That’s just how it’s gonna be, the jobs just needed to get done.”

Set to travel to Winnipeg to play the Blue Bombers on Friday night, McCormick has been working tirelessly to ensure everything is in order for this week’s game, but also has an eye turned toward a road trip to Edmonton next week.

“We’re already working to get logistics for Winnipeg,” he said. “I’m already checking out weather reports a week in advance. Before we even come in on day one, I can probably tell you what the weather is going to be on game day.”

The job is incredibly busy, and every day presents a new challenge or problem to solve. All of the different tasks have created a world where McCormick has fallen into a routine for what to do on each day leading into a game.

“You have to be on your stuff and use your time efficiently,” he said. “We have a job where you could work 24 hours a day, and you could find something to do. That’s just the reality of it. I have a pretty strict schedule on how I do things, it’s the same way we’ve always done them. I do one thing on Day One, this is on Day Two, this is Day Three, this is Day Four.”

In the hours between sunrise and sunset, McCormick is rarely anywhere but the stadium. The long days can be difficult, especially spending so much time away from his wife, and two young kids, but it’s the pride he takes in ensuring his hometown team looks as good as they can on game day that gets him out of bed when most people still have hours left to sleep.

“There’s a little bit of pride in it being from here,” he said. “When we go out of the tunnel, whether it’s our home on the road, whatever we’re wearing, I’m putting out a product that represents the city.”

Certainly good enough at the job to eventually land something with an NFL club, it’s not something McCormick is putting too much stock into.

“Would it be cool to work at the Sunday night football game or win a Super Bowl ring? Yeah,” he said. “But you know, there are a ton of factors involved. My wife and I are both from Ottawa, and we grew up here together. I have kids here, we have a mortgage, and we built a life here. I would be lying if I said it wouldn’t be cool to win a Super Bowl, but it’s also not my top priority. My top priority is to win a Grey Cup this year.”