Hickory High School freshman Braeden McCourt has lived in Hickory for about two years. He soon made his mark on the school’s football history.

In his just-finished freshman season, he was named MVP in the state title game that gave the Red Tornado soccer team its first state championship since 2001.


Hickory High School freshman and state title game MVP Braden McCourt (left) and head soccer coach Brian Jillings stand in front of a framed photo of athletes in a hallway at Hickory High School.

Miya Banks, Records

14-year-old McCourt comes from a military family. He lived in Texas, Florida, Hawaii, South Korea and Turkey until his father retired and his family settled in Hickory.

According to soccer team head coach Brian Jillings: “He’s still in first grade, but he’s very mature for his age. He’ll succeed in whatever he does.”

Zillings said McCourt’s skills quickly impressed teammates and McCourt blended in seamlessly.

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There are some holes in the new season, according to Zillings.

“But we thought, ‘Let’s have Braden try it,’ and he just did it,” Zillings said. “I barely remember him leaving the field all season, which is unusual for athletes of any age. But as a freshman, it’s an incredible achievement.”

After his football team won a state championship, McCourt said he was regularly stopped and congratulated.

“It was really heartwarming,” McCourt said. “These people I have never met in my life, but they still make me happy.”

Lucky Combo: Military Experience, Parental Support

McCourt said he was lucky to have people throughout his life who pushed him to be the best he could be.

“I think my background in the military and[and]moving around helped shape me,” McCourt said. “[And]I think it’s great that[my parents]raised me, and I want my kids to do exactly the same.”

McCourt said his parents’ support was a big factor in his achievements.

Soccer Journey Started in South Korea

Although his surroundings have often changed, soccer has been a constant in McCourt’s life.

When asked about playing football in a foreign country and possible language barriers, McCourt said he usually plays on military bases. But he recalls overcoming language barriers elsewhere.

“I remember going to a restaurant…[and]I had to think of other ways to get my message across. I had to use my body,” he said. “It’s really amazing how much we can communicate without speaking the same language.”

hot air balloon ride in turkey

McCourt said his favorite place to visit was Cappadocia, Turkey, where he and his family stayed in one of the area’s cave hotels.

Cappadocia is known for its underground cities built centuries ago by persecuted Christians for their faith. McCourt said he enjoyed learning about the historical context of the area.

“We also have a hot air balloon every morning at 5am,” he said. “It was a lot of fun because we could also ride in a hot air balloon.”

everything is on the table

Looking ahead, McCourt said, “I think everything is on the table right now.” His favorite subject is mathematics, which he said opens doors to many areas of study.

“College football is my dream and if such an opportunity were to arise, I wouldn’t trade it,” McCourt said, adding that Stanford was one of his dream schools. .

“I don’t know. All the doors are open right now,” McCourt said. “Why are you closing the door early when you don’t have to?”


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