FORT WORTH — Texas fans are well versed in Westlake quarterback Sam Ehlinger’s story. Same goes for Lake Travis tight end Cade Brewer and long-time UT commitment Montrell Estell, the flashy receiver from Hooks.
Max Cummins’ school, vitals and backstory probably won’t roll off many tongues.
The Longhorns don’t sign many athletes from Fort Worth All-Saints Episcopal, a private school on the west side of Fort Worth. The 6-5 defensive end actually went to middle school in the Lake Travis school district and played three seasons at St. Andrew’s.
Cummins landed at All-Saints after St. Andrew’s coach Ty Detmer left to become the offensive coordinator at BYU. He really turned heads when he committed to Texas assistant Oscar Giles literally minutes after being offered during an in-home visit on Jan. 17. Giles had been tracking Cummins while he was coaching at Houston.
Cummins is the subject of the American-Statesman’s sixth signing day Q&A, following Reggie Hemphill-Mapps (2016), Patrick Vahe (2015), Jerrod Heard (2014), Darius James (2013), Malcom Brown (2012) and Josh Turner (2011). Last week, Cummins expounded on his family’s decision to leave Lake Travis, the entire recruiting process and how badly he wants to succeed with the Longhorns in an hour-long interview.
You lived in Austin for a while. Were you born there?
No, I was actually born in Clear Lake, right outside of Houston, and I lived most of my early years in Houston — until I was probably 12-and-a-half or so. My dad’s job actually took us up to Seattle, which is an interesting twist. That was close to two years. Then we decided we were going back to Texas, and Austin was the best place for us. So we got into the Lake Travis school system and I went to Hudson Bend middle school. My freshman year, I went to Lake Travis. Then we thought about it, and coach Detmer reached out and asked me to come play, so I decided to repeat my freshman year at St. Andrew’s. Played at St. Andrew’s through the middle of my junior year, but I transferred to All-Saints in the middle of my junior year.
This is fascinating, just the idea of repeating ninth grade. Why did you do that?
It was really something that I didn’t plan on. It kind of came up and I thought about it. My first freshman year, I wasn’t the biggest kid on the team. I was a little undersized. I wasn’t the biggest or the fastest. We thought an extra year could maybe help me with that. So I decided to repeat, and honestly, it was the best decision I’ve ever made — besides coming up to All-Saints. It got me a little bigger, help put on some pounds, gave me a year to grow basically and get a frame that could hold more weight in the future for football purposes.
How old are you?
Nineteen. Born in December 1997.
So you are older than all of your classmates?
I am. There’s only one other person older than me here and that’s Thurman Hogan, who’s our running back.
So you probably feel like a grown man compared to a lot of other people at school.
Yeah, I kind of hang out with a lot of people who I feel like have matured a lot faster than usual. It’s easy to be around them. But sometimes, I look at college kids and think, ‘I should be there right now.’ But it’s all worked out for the best.
I’m convinced most folks in the city of Austin didn’t know that Ty Detmer was coaching there. What was that experience like?
Coach Detmer’s a really great guy. I really liked him a lot. He’s not the usual football coach. He’s not the guy that will yell and scream at you and tell you all the things you’re doing wrong. He’ll coach you fairly. But being around him was kind of unreal. Having him toss balls around at practice was, like, wow, I’m catching balls from a Heisman Trophy winner. It still hasn’t sunk in yet. But I’m really glad he found a job at BYU and he got to what he planned on doing for his life.
Did he ever talk about the Heisman Trophy? Or did players there view him strictly as the coach?
People viewed him as the coach, but we definitely got to build a good relationship with him, especially some of the most experienced and older players. He didn’t talk much about his playing days, but he brought the Heisman around a few times. For some of our banquets, he brought the Heisman around, which was pretty cool.
So you ended up playing three football seasons at St. Andrews?
Yes. The way I explain it to most people, in college, a lot of guys going into the draft will do three-and-a-half years. Basically, what I did was three-and-a-half years and then graduated from there and went into my freshman year of college up here at All-Saints, which really helped me prepare for the future and what’s to come, especially at Texas.
What brought you to Fort Worth All-Saints?
When I repeated my ninth-grade year, I was ineligible to play in the UIL or TAPPS. So I had to go somewhere in the SPC because of my age and which year I repeated. If I had repeated my eighth-grade year, I would have been fine. But eligibility purposes with TAPPS and UIL, you get only four years of playing, so I would have had to sit out my senior year.
You came to All-Saints just for your senior season. Do you feel like a hired gun? Aren’t you bigger than almost everybody else?
Um, not so much. I wasn’t always this big. I came in here around 220 pounds and maybe 6-foot-4. And I actually shot up a little bit more. With shoes off, I’m pushing a little over 6-5 right now and my weight’s close to 250 and growing ever slowly, trying to get to June 1.
It wasn’t like I came here and was starting automatically. (All-Saints coach Aaron) Beck told me they didn’t know where I’m going to play this year. I had to prove myself to the coaching staff. These guys here run this place like a college, and I went through the summer to prove myself. I didn’t miss a workout when I was in town and wasn’t in camps. Came into fall camps and showed them what I can do.
With your story, it seems like you would fall off the recruiting radar. Did you notice that?
It was hard to be recruited out of St. Andrew’s. I’m not saying that in a bad way that’s bashing St. Andrew’s. But it was going to be hard to get recruited out of there. So I came up here, I had no offers. I had a couple of schools following me on Twitter. That’s about it. My first offer came before the summer, which was West Point (Army). It was really great to see I got a (FBS) offer first. Throughout the summer, I went to camps. My first camp of the year was at TCU, and I got written up in the top five of the ones who were there. I was the only one who didn’t have a write-up on 247Sports, Rivals, Scout — all of those sites.
You didn’t have a profile on any of the three major recruiting sites?
None of them. So Mr. Clark, Jeremy Clark, the writer for TCU 247Sports’ site, he wrote me up and got in touch with me. I said, ‘Mr. Clark, how can I get a profile?’ He said I needed to get some senior film, send it in and they’d see if I could rated. So I went through all my camps, got a bunch of guys that were very interested.
How many camps did you go to?
I’m going to say around 10. TCU, Oklahoma State, a Texas select camp with all the Ivy League schools, Rice, Harvard … where else did I go? I know there’s a couple more. I went to the Air Force camp, Duke camp in North Carolina. So that kind of really sparked a lot of interest in people and that sparked all the FCS and Ivy League offers that came in during the summer, quite a few of those. It was great to see all of those coming in, but my dream and goal has always been to play Power 5, Division I football. My highlight tape is probably nine minutes. I needed to make it that long to show coaches it was for real.
I’m fascinated by the concept of Hudl videos. It’s easy to look good on a three-minute video. But you made the conscious decision to go longer?
People say, ‘Oh, you need to make it three to five minutes of all your best plays.’ Well, all the coaches look at that and anybody can look great for three to five minutes. But what about the rest of the game? I honestly probably could have made 20 minutes of good plays and highlights. But I kept it right under 10 minutes just to show coaches that I wasn’t a three-minute highlight type of player and I could play some football. This wasn’t easy competition. They don’t think private-school competition in Texas is as good as it is. I would stack us up against any high school team in Texas, and I think we would have a chance.
You get through the season, make a highlight video, and then what?
I sent that out to a lot of people. A lot of research. If you go on websites, you can find coaches’ email and cell numbers. If you’re an under-recruited person, the best way is get attention is to blast out emails. I’m not saying annoyingly, so you don’t email them four or five times with the same thing. You email them once. You text them once. You Twitter them once. You give them your metrics, the video and give them everything you can to promote yourself. No one’s going to do it for you. There are so many guys in my same position just lined up, ready to play that could be just as good. But I’m going to promote myself to try and get the best offers I can.
As you are going through this process and you see the machine 247Sports, Rivals and Scout have become and you’re doing it on your own, what are you thinking as the days go by?
A lot of people say stars don’t matter, and these recruiting sites don’t matter. That’s true in its own way. But in reality, a lot of people take into account how many stars guys have. Most of the college coaches I’ve talked to, they don’t care. They know how to look at film and evaluate people properly. I think those recruiting sites are for the players, the families and the rest of the public. All college coaches have access to our game films (at All-Saints). I know this because I’ve been told that Texas has watched almost every single one of my game films.
Defensive line coach Oscar Giles, head coach Tom Herman, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando? Who do you think watched all the videos?
When you sent the blast emails out, who responded?
Not many people. (Laughs.) Not many people responded, and it was really kind of demoralizing, but I kind of kept on it. We may have 100 coaches come through here, and coach Beck does a great job handling that. But the problem is when I came here, the coaches here didn’t know what I was going to be. They couldn’t vouch for me. But when the season ended, they could vouch for me. So when some of the schools started coming through after the season, that’s when the calls started coming.
(Cummins originally committed to Connecticut. But he started looking around when the coach Bob Diaco was fired in late December. Cummins then received a scholarship offer from Baylor and planned on taking an official visit to Waco on Jan. 20.)
Right when the dead period ended (on Jan. 12), I got so many calls from a bunch of schools. Texas, OU, TCU, Baylor, Nebraska, Northwestern had been in here. A couple of coaches from Stanford messaged me on Twitter.
What do you think triggered that?
I don’t know.
Of those schools, which ones did you send your video to?
All of them. I sent my stuff to every school in Division I. That’s not an understatement. I was on the computer emailing a lot of people. My dad helped me out, too, of course. He emailed so many schools for me. I’m very appreciative of that. This was when my first profiles started popping up. On 247, my first rating was a low three-star, which was a little bit disappointing, and no one’s first rating is astronomically high.
I got a call from TCU and they wanted me to come visit with them. That was right down the road, so I said, ‘I’ll be there in 15 minutes.’ Right after I left TCU, I got a call from coach Giles and he said, ‘We’re coming tomorrow and we want you to visit on the 20th.’ Ooookay. I just told Baylor I was going to visit on the 20th. I kind of had to think about it.
I don’t recommend recruits saying this to coaches, but I told him, ‘I can’t come on a visit without an offer.’ I’m going to Baylor because they already offered me. After I get off the phone with coach Giles, I got a text from coach (Calvin) Thibodeaux up at OU who said, ‘Hey, we’re really interested in you and we want you to come visit on the 20th.’
Was it a respect thing? You turned down a visit to Texas and OU because Baylor had already put something on the table?
Yes. I don’t want to waste any coach’s time and they don’t want to waste my time because recruiting a big business and there’s a lot of people they need to see. So I wasn’t going to waste coach Giles’ time and tell him I was going to visit when I wasn’t.
Especially when you didn’t know whether Texas would offer, right?
Exactly. So I had three home visits that Tuesday (Jan. 17). Houston was there, UCF came and then coach Giles was coming at 7 p.m. The next day OU was coming. Nebraska and Northwestern were both going to come. I was under the impression that OU was coming with an offer. That night, coach Giles came in. He made me an offer, which I was really excited about. He wasn’t talking about asking for a commitment or nothing. I said, ‘Coach Giles, if I commit, are you going to accept my commitment?’ He said, ‘Well, of course!’ So I said you’ve got a new defensive lineman. I don’t think it registered with him. He was shocked. He did not pressure me to commit. He did not talk about committing.
I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘Oh, he probably pressured you to commit because he wanted to get you on the board and you were a quick pick-up for them.’ No, I wasn’t. There was no talk of a commitment until I committed, and he was very, very surprised. He got me on the phone with coach Herman immediately. He was ecstatic about it; coach Orlando was very happy. In fact, coach Herman was on another home visit and took the time to step out and talk to me, which was great.
I had talked with my parents and family about Texas. I talked with coach Beck about it, and he said, ‘If Texas offers, it’s a no-brainer. C’mon.’ I want to study business. The academics speak for itself. Coach Herman, I mean, look what he did at Houston in two years.
Funny enough, my Pee Wee football team in first grade, we won the area championship. We were the Longhorns. I was No. 10 — Vince Young’s number. I actually played quarterback.
What goes on during a home visit these days?
You can make him dinner, but coach Giles is a busy guy and had a lot of people to recruit. My mom, she’s a great cook, but she wasn’t going make dinner for three coaches coming in all on one night. Coach Giles mentioned that one other family made him dinner, and my mom said, ‘Well, I make a great apple pie. I’m going to make you an apple pie.’ I don’t think he believed it. So when I took my official visit, my mom had an apple pie ready for me to take down to coach Giles. So I made good on my promise there.
What did you tell OU the next day?
When I committed to Texas, I shut down everything, but I listened to him anyway just to see what he had to say. It was really awesome that he still came, and that shows a lot about OU. I was going to go on the visit on the 20th to Texas. I made sure to call all the coaches that had been recruiting me or at least texted them before I put out an announcement. None of them were mad or angry. All seemed to understand because it’s the recruiting business. What showed me that I seemed to do everything right was (defensive coordinator Mark) D’Onofrio from Houston texted my dad and thanked him for everything. My dad told me about that, and it really kind of showed to me the things I’ve been trying to do right, I’ve been doing right.
You beat the system without the recruiting machine behind you. For somebody who literally had to send out blast emails, you are now going to Texas.
You have to find the right fit. Texas is a good fit for me. All the coaches think I have a really high potential, and if I work hard enough, I could possible get playing time this year. If I really show myself, I could maybe even start, because they’re playing only the best players. I can pack on weight and get faster and stronger. A lot of people don’t understand, in the weight room here we are preparing for college. I’m not going into Texas and be the guy who dogs it. I’m going to be the most well-prepared when I get to Texas, that’s my goal.
I’m representing not only myself at Texas, but I’m representing All-Saints as a school. I do not want to break and burn that bridge from All-Saints to Texas because of the way I am acting at Texas. I’m not going to be the guy who’s going out, getting in fights, getting suspended and ruining my chances to play. I’m not going to be that guy. I’m going to be the guy who comes in, works as hard as he can to try and get that starting role.
During your official visit, what was the vibe you got from the current players? Where is this program going?
The Texas Longhorns are not losers, that’s for sure. Coach Herman is installing a championship mentality and he’s recruiting champions. For instance, a friend of mine from Lake Travis, Cade Brewer, is coming to Texas and they won a state championship. Coach Herman is recruiting champions that are going to help the program go from being a losing program with a winning mentality to being a very winning program with a championship mentality. That was very obvious by the way the coaches carried themselves and by the way the players carried themselves. They were not sulking around and unhappy with the coaching change. They were all in.
I’m sure you read the stories about your commitment. Do you feel like you have something to prove to fans asking, ‘Who is this guy from All-Saints?’ Or do you even care?
I really don’t listen or care about what people who don’t know me think about it. I may be a three-star athlete based on 247’s ratings, but who’s doing those ratings? Do they even know? All I know is that the one rating that mattered was done by coach Giles, coach Herman and coach Orlando. They did not offer me because I was their backup plan. There’s only two defensive linemen committed right now. They wouldn’t have recruited me if they did think I would make a difference in the program. So all that stuff people throw out there about, ‘Oh, he’s just a three star …’
So you’ve seen it?
Oh, I’ve seen it. The way I respond to it, I write it down and keep it for later. When I need a little pick-me-up and don’t want to go to a 5 a.m. workout, I’ll just pull out that notebook, take a look at it and then be at that 5 a.m. workout 15 minutes early. I know who I am and my coaches here and the coaches at UT know who I am, they know my work ethic and know how I’m going to do this. They know I’m going to try my best to make a difference in the program.
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.