Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Lion for Life

Alex Gross with two of his biggest fans

Even a cynical fan has to admit that Columbia has been disproportionately blessed with some of the best players in Ivy football history.

I say “disproportionately” because the Lions haven’t enjoyed the luxury of a winning record very often over the past 50 years.

In the last 30 years, the Lions have been blessed with future NFL stars like Marcellus Wiley, and multiple record breakers like John Witkowski.

And every once in a while Columbia gets a player who is not only 1st Team All Ivy, but is also a superstar as a human being.

By that I mean someone who becomes a great ambassador for Columbia sports, Columbia academics, the Ivy League, and even America.

Bill Campbell was one of those players, and has become one of those Columbia alums who every Columbian admires and strives to emulate. Most of the people who knew him as a player and student just knew he was going to be a great leader and a difference maker in his life beyond the gridiron.

He didn’t disappoint.

It’s almost a given that a large number of the Lion seniors about to take the field for the last time this Saturday will be extremely successful in the near and distant future. The kind of person who plays four years of Ivy football almost always has what it takes to succeed anywhere else.

But is there a super-special person in the current crop of true Columbia seniors… a Bill Campbell/Archie Roberts type person?

I believe there is.

Two-time captain Alex Gross strikes me and many other long-time Columbia observers as a once-in-a-generation player, student, and person. It’s very easy to envision Alex making a name for himself, a very big name for himself, in business or politics or on some other stage we can’t even describe in this changing world.

Anyone who can come back from a devastating knee destruction, (it was more than just an “injury”), and play as dominantly as Alex Gross has this season is force of nature and personal discipline.

He will win the Ivy tackling crown this season for his second tackling title in his career.

He was the Ivy Rookie of the Year in 2007, and 1st Team All Ivy in 2008.

His teammates made him the rare junior to be elected a team captain and he repeated as captain this season.

He has somehow improved from year to year despite that 2009 injury.

Anyone who can put up the grades and stats to make the list of 16 finalists for the Bill Campbell Trophy is not going to be just a spectator in the sport of adult life.

Alex also comes from a good family, a great state, (Ohio just seems to produce outstanding Americans), and shows a great combination of drive and humility.

I don’t mean to put extra pressure on him, but as much as we’ve all enjoyed the seasons of greatness Alex has had on the field, it’s the next 50 years of his life that I bet will be even more significant for him, and for Columbia.

Can he be another Bill Campbell?


And I’m just selfish enough to want to be able to say I was one of the first people to predict that level of great things for Alex Gross.

And here’s another prediction that’s easier to make:

Win or lose against Brown this Saturday, Alex Gross is going to have a monster game. This is not a young man who’s going to leave anything on the sidelines in the final football game of his life.

I hope this post serves as at least a partial thank you to Alex and his family for their commitment to Columbia football and the joy that’s brought so many of us as fans, parents, and people since 2007.


At Wed Nov 17, 08:41:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It has been nice to see his parents at every home game.

At Wed Nov 17, 12:36:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Alex's Dad said...

I would like to thank you for all your kind word regarding Alex over the past 4 years and especially this posting. Your 2 beautiful daughters are probably his biggest fans next to his mom and myself. Jordan's drawing has safely made its way back to Ohio and will find a place on the wall in Alex's room attached to this blog article. We would also like to thank the Columbia coaches who took a chance on this kid who was just a "little too short" from that other school in Southwest Ohio and allowed Alex the chance to fullfill his dream and play Division I football in a great Ivy League school in one of the greatest cities in the world. Also thank you to Dr. Murphy, Darlene, Jim Gossett, Dr. Levine, and Father V who played such a role in the good and not so good times especially in recovering from his injury. Finally we have been blessed to be able to share a little in all that has gone on the past 4 years and have had the chance to have made such great friends amongst the parents of Alex's teammates. We have told anyone who will listen how much we respect and admire the Columbia football players who are the nicest, most respectable, and talented young men we would ever hope to meet. It will be tough seeing the seniors leave the field this last game. But is it Alex's last football game? He is not saying.

At Wed Nov 17, 06:25:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Message to Alex's Dad; thank you for everything that you and your son have done for us life long Lions!

At Wed Nov 17, 08:37:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good Sir,
Passion mixed with excellence rises to the level of artistry, whatever the endeavor. It has simply been a huge pleasure to watch your son exemplify that.

At Thu Nov 18, 03:45:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alex has been an inspiration to his fellow seniors and all underclassmen. Enjoy the game against the Brown Bears! Go Lions !

At Thu Nov 18, 05:54:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alex Gross is a great example to all those who strive for excellence in all facets of life


At Thu Nov 18, 07:44:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In addition to all these great qualities, Alex is also a good friend and we are very happy for him and his family.
The Fontela Family

At Thu Nov 18, 08:27:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Non-Columbia fan to say congratulations on setting a reat example of what Ivy athletics are


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