By Paige LaBella
Special to GoHolyCross.com
For such a talented tight end, one would be shocked to hear that Alex Schneider almost did not play college football, anywhere.
The gifted senior who stands at an impressive 6'7", found an early passion for basketball. Although an exceptional football player, Schneider was always a standout in basketball. Schneider received many basketball related accolades throughout high school, however, he began achieving great success in football during his senior year at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights, Minn. "I always thought that I would be a basketball player in college," he said.
Schneider received such All-State honors in basketball, in addition to being a finalist for Mr. Basketball honors in Minnesota and receiving a nomination for the McDonalds All-America basketball team. "I never thought I was that good," he said modestly. Schneider led his team to the 2007 Minnesota state championship title in basketball. He also scored over 1,000 career points, forcing people to wonder why he came all the way to Holy Cross in New England, and also what persuaded him to play football?
"I definitely could go farther in football," said Schneider. "I don't think I could have had the success in basketball that I've had in football here." Schneider's love for football outweighed his success in basketball. After receiving many letters of praise from colleges about his accomplishments in basketball, Schneider decided to see if he had what it took to play football. His senior year at St. Thomas Academy, he began to market himself, and his talent as a potential NCAA football player began to shine through. It was not until then that he realized he could just as easily play football at the collegiate level as he could in basketball. His inspiration comes from his older brother Jake, who was in the Coast Guard prior to playing football at Bethel University. "He's definitely been huge in getting me to play college football and getting me where I am right now," Schneider added.
Over 1,100 miles from home, Schneider chose Holy Cross over many other bigger schools that were much closer to home. Schneider was interested in Holy Cross because of its small size, mirroring his high school and his hometown. He remarked, "I liked the smaller community because it's similar to where I came from, and Holy Cross is definitely an outstanding academic institution."
Going from high school to playing Division I football, Schneider was astonished. "It was like going from the sidewalk to a freeway," said Schneider. "I was just watching everyone running around, I wondered if I was good enough to play here." Fortunately for Holy Cross, Schneider was indeed wrong. He was definitely beyond 'good enough' to play here at Holy Cross.
Head coach Tom Gilmore was aware of Schneider's talent from the beginning. "Alex was already a good receiver when he arrived at Holy Cross. He is a big target with great reach and he can really get up to make a catch." Schneider and Gilmore agree that he has improved most on his blocking. "He has made the most progress here with his blocking, by working hard on his strength in the weight room and working hard on his technique on the field. He is now much more versatile in all of our packages," Gilmore added.
Even as a sophomore, Schneider's immense capabilities became evident. Earning second team All-Patriot League honors as well as ranking second among all Patriot League tight ends in receptions and receiving yards, Schneider helped lead the team to the 2009 Patriot League championship. In addition, Alex Schneider had six touchdown receptions, which were the second-most on the team. He also had 33 receptions for 275 yards, ranking fourth on the team, and caught a pass in 10 straight games to end the season.
Last season was especially difficult for Schneider. Coming off a 2009 campaign in which the Crusaders won the Patriot League title, it was tough on the team to finish two games behing Lehigh in the final conference standings. However, Schneider's statistics did not whither. He received first team All-Patriot honors and ranked second in the conference among tight ends in receptions and receiving yards last year. Schneider finished the season with 30 catches for 217 yards.
Schneider is just as talented off the field as he is on it. While recovering from surgery last spring, Schneider pursued a job as an intern in his home state of Minnesota. He worked for Repair Advocates where he successfully marketed their product to charities, churches and schools to help raise awareness for the company, while donating back to those organizations.
Today's contest against Lafayette will be Senior Day, the last home game of the season and an important Patriot League match-up. Last year, Holy Cross dealt Lafayette a 37-27 loss. The Crusaders hope to build on last year's success and continue their winning ways against the Leopards. Schneider will play an important role in the game both as a team leader and an offensive weapon. With Schneider's confidence and excellent ability, the Crusaders look to finish out the 2011 season strong.
This story originally appeared in the November 12 edition of the Holy Cross Game Day Program, for the contest between the Crusaders and Lafayette. To order a copy of the program, click here.