Saturday, September 30

Former Gateway soccer standout Sam Alexander set to cheer on Nittany Lions

Sam Alexander fashioned one of the top varsity careers in the history of Gateway boys soccer as a lockdown goalkeeper who earned numerous all-star honors for his play.

His athletic endeavors continue at Penn State but in a slightly different direction.

Last month, Alexander, a freshman on the University Park campus, became one of the newest members of the Nittany Lions cheer squad that will lend its support and school spirit to a number of Penn State athletic squads.

“For a while, I thought I was going to play soccer in college, and there was no consideration in my head that I would take the path to be a male cheerleader,” said Alexander, who attended a number of Penn State sporting events growing up and was on hand for all but one of the football games at Beaver Stadium this past fall.

“I don’t even think, in the past, that I had paid too much attention to the male cheerleaders or the whole team in general. But it’s definitely something really cool, and I am very happy to be a part of it.”

The tryouts were the first week of April, and he waited a short time before the decisions were made.

Alexander said all previous members of the team tried out again along with Alexander and about a half dozen other newcomers.

He and three others are new members of the squad which totals 16 males and 13 females.

“There was a little pressure trying out with the guys who have been there before,” Alexander said.

“They came in confident with the stunts I had just learned a couple of weeks beforehand. I had high hopes to make the team, but if I didn’t, at least I gave it a shot. I was nervous before, but when I was in the moment and doing what I needed to do, I didn’t mess up. I felt very accomplished.”

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Alexander was introduced to the cheer team through friendships made since his arrival at Penn State.

“I talked about being an athlete in high school and being a relatively strong person,” he said.

“A couple of people who are already on the team suggested that I give it a shot and try out.”

Alexander went to the open gyms and practices to gain a level of comfort leading up to the tryouts.

“I liked to lift weights as it is, so it wasn’t necessarily strength that I was training,” he said.

“A lot of the work was in the cheer technique. They walked us through the technique for about six practices, and it was so beneficial to see how they actually do the stunts. They kept giving little tips and what not to get me closer and closer to where I needed to be. Eventually, I worked my way up to being able to do it. It was a lot harder than I expected it to be. It’s a lot of lifting the other cheerleaders up from different positions and looking good doing so.”

A proud father, Paul Alexander, a Penn State graduate and sports media personality in State College and Pittsburgh for more than three decades, posted an announcement to Facebook shortly after the teams had been finalized.

“So proud of Sam who made the PSU Cheerleading squad. We Are…..,” the elder Alexander said.

Sam Alexander had sought out the possibility of playing soccer in college and had drawn attention from a number of Division II and III schools. He also had a number of preferred walk-on spots in some Division I programs.

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But none of the schools, he said, made a mark to him like Penn State did, and he decided to settle in as a student there as opposed to a student-athlete anywhere else.

Alexander did make the men’s club soccer team, but he said he decided against going forward with it because of the sizeable time commitments.

“It was nice coming out of the (soccer) tryouts knowing that I still had some skills,” he said.

In the end, Alexander is a student-athlete at Penn State.

“My parents played a big role in me coming to Penn State, and there also is this great sense of community,” Alexander said. “It is such a great atmosphere for growing and learning. Sports is a bonus, and I am glad to be a part of it.”

The work continues as the newest incarnation of the Penn State cheer team gathers and trains to be ready to perform at summer events like the annual arts festival.

The football season is only four months away with the home opener against Ohio set for Sept. 10.

Penn State opens its season Sept. 1 at Big Ten foe Purdue.

“This is such a great group of people to be a part of,” Alexander said.

“I felt that so much before and during tryouts. The returning people made me and the other new members so welcomed. I am excited to see what the future holds with the team.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 724-226-4665, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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