With three games remaining in Courtney McBride’s sophomore season at Heritage, the Patriots’ starting defensive end had five sacks to his name in seven games played.
After going a stretch of two games without recording a sack, McBride choose Alcovy, the Patriots’ biggest Region 3-AAAAAA rival, to take his frustrations out on.
In what McBride calls his favorite high school game to date, he left with five sacks and seven total tackles for a loss in a 17-0 shutout of the Tigers, officially stamping his name as one of Heritage’s next big stars on the defensive side of the ball.
“I think by far it was my best game,” McBride said. “It makes me excited for region play because I know that they’re planning on me. But that was definitely the most memorable game. It just seemed like everything was working for me.”
Nearly two inches taller and 15 pounds heavier, McBride has picked up where he left off last season. With five sacks to his name and 12 tackles for a loss in the Patriots’ first five games, the junior isn’t letting his early season successes cloud the bigger goals he has set for himself this season.
“I’m never really satisfied,” McBride said. “After every game, folks pat me on the back and I don’t let that get to my head. I prepare myself for more and I kind of feel like I have this steam going right now. I had a good game last week and a good game the week before that. I just have to keep building on that.”
In the Patriots’ last game, McBride found the end zone for the first time in his career after stripping a South Gwinnett ball carrier and returning it for a touchdown. He finished the game with 1.5 sacks and a season-high five tackles for a loss.
McBride’s rising stardom at Heritage almost never happened. Not in football, at least. Heading into his seventh grade year at Edwards Middle School in Conyers, McBride was ready to hang up his shoulder pads for good and trade them in for a full-time career in basketball.
Standing at only about five feet, six inches as a seventh grader, his lack of height only further drew him away from the game of football, a sport that he began playing at the age of four.
“I had doubts in myself,” McBride said. “It was one of the lowest parts of my confidence. I couldn’t see myself playing because I didn’t have the size or the height at the time. I used to be short and stubby.”
It wasn’t until a former coach of McBride’s convinced him to stick with football, a decision he hasn’t regretted. Roughly one year later, McBride started to grow. In what he has called a steady increase from his eighth grade year until now, McBride hasn’t stopped growing since.
“I started growing taller and taller,” McBride said. “I really started noticing it because I started having back spasms. There was this one back spasm that I had and I couldn’t walk for 2-3 days. I just became 6-foot-3. Last year, I think I was about 6-foot-1.”
As a ninth grader at Heritage, McBride did not play varsity. Instead, he started on the junior varsity team and watched the likes of former Heritage standout and current University of Tennessee defensive tackle Kurott Garland perfect his craft.
“(Kurott) really taught me what a work ethic looks like,” McBride said. “I would just see Kurott running stadiums after practice. Going home, they said he would train in the woods and train with his father, 24-7. So I just look up to those guys a lot and try to fill their shoes. I want to be better than them. That’s how I look at it.”
As a sophomore, McBride led the team in sacks with 10 in his first full season as a starter. His overall playing time, however, increased as the season went on.
“It started to get to a point to where the coaches didn’t want to have me off the field at all,” McBride said. “At the beginning of the year, I was starting, but there were times where I was taken out in a rotation. Later on, they couldn’t take me off the field.”
McBride was also able to learn from 2018 senior defensive linemen Chandler Hammett and Darnell Stainrod, who combined for 9.5 sacks last season.
“Chandler and Darnell built my competitiveness up,” McBride said. “It was always us talking back and forth. It was all love, but we were always talking trash about what we did this game and what we didn’t do that game.”
In 2019, McBride has worked his way up to the veteran of the group and is now doing some mentoring of his own to fellow junior Kevin Jarvis, who already has six sacks on the season in his first as a starter.
“I trust (Kevin) more than I trust anyone else on the defense,” McBride said. “I’ve worked with him since we were freshmen. He’s always been like a little brother to me. I kind of touches me to see how much he’s grown and how much he’s matured. I just want him to want more. He’s a hard worker and he’s nothing to sleep on, at all.”
While McBride has credited his size and speed to a lot of his successes thus far, the biggest thing he credits is his knowledge of the game, something he’s constantly working on at practice and at home.
“I watch a lot of film,” McBride said. “I’m a homebody. All I do is eat, go to school, practice, watch film and sleep. It feels good to be able to point out what another team is doing. I like being a step ahead of people. This year, it’s just coming. I see it, I know what it is, I know where it’s going. It’s just that experience that I’ve gotten to know what is going to happen.”
With five more regular season games remaining on the schedule for McBride and his senior season awaiting him in 2020, he has still yet to find one last piece to his puzzle - college offers.
While the likes of Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Missouri and NC State have all expressed interest in McBride, he has yet to receive an offer, something he hopes will come very soon.
“Me being who I am, I’m very patient and I’m very humble,” McBride said. “I know that if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. I just trust God, stay patient and keep working hard. I trust the coaching staff and the people around me to get me to where I need to be at.”