Q&A with St. Paul's football player Alec Auwaerter

At 6 feet 6, 275 pounds, Alec Auwaerter plays a key role on the offensive line for a No. 9 St. Paul's football team with a stellar running game powering its 8-0 season and a shot at the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference title.

The offensive guard, who has been selected for the Maryland Crab Bowl senior all-star game, is an Eagle Scout and an International Baccalaureate diploma candidate. Auwaerter has a 3.7 grade-point average and is considering majoring in biology. He created and designed an IB Extended Essay website for use by all candidates in the demanding IB academic program.

An avid outdoorsman, Auwaerter has gone fly fishing in Wyoming, skiied the continental divide in Banff, Alberta, biked 100 miles around Cape Cod and canoed 75 miles along the boundary waters in northern Minnesota.

Auwaerter and the Crusaders are preparing to take on archrival Boys' Latin for the 59th time Friday. The Crusaders lead the series, 38-19-1, but have won only once (2008) in the last eight years.

How did you get started playing football?

I didn't really play football until sixth grade at St. Paul's and we had an introductory flag football sort of thing. In eighth grade, I sort of came into my own toward the end of the season. I grew up with my grandfather [Louis Manzo], who was a Notre Dame football player, so there was the dream of playing. And the size — you've got to put it to good use.

Was the dream at first yours or your grandfather's?

We lived with him a little, while our house was being built, and we started to watch games. He wasn't really into any other sport and it was sort of an inspiration to be just like him. He played tight end, but I never really had the speed or the catching ability to play tight end. He kept telling me, "Ask your coach if he could put in a tight-end play for you just once." He comes to every game, and so does my grandmother.

Have you always been a lineman?

Always been a lineman. Lineman is really not the position everyone wants to play. Everyone wants to be a wide receiver or quarterback or linebacker. It's not a fame position, but you open the holes for people, so your backs can run through and your quarterbacks can make passes. It all starts wth you, and that's how you win games.

What are you looking forward to about the Boys' Latin game this week?

From what I can remember, from fifth grade to 11th, we only won once. Every year, I remember losing and it's traumatic and heartbreaking. We're unbeaten now and, not to toot our own horn, but we have a great team. I would love to have our fans run on that field with us and celebrate with us. We've pretty much got that rivalry with them in every sport. It might not be as huge of a tradition as McDonogh-Gilman or Calvert Hall-Loyola because we're not as big of a school, but there's just so much emotion in the game. Everyone tries to play their best. It's a little more embedded in lacrosse, but in football, it's still a really big thing.

What makes St. Paul's so good this season?

We work as one unit. Everyone does their job, and it's firing on all cylinders. Our defense is amazing, the 'D' line firing off the line [and] getting pressure, the linebackers filling the holes, the cornerbacks and safeties covering the field. We've put up two shutouts so far and we've allowed very few points the entire season. The offense has amazing skill guys. In the last game, our senior wide receiver Teddy Martinez caught the ball with one hand. It was crazy. He just jumped up, grabbed it with one hand and brought it down. It's been the contributions of many to drive us forward.

Did you and your teammates think your team would be this good?

Yeah. Every couple of years, we have a trip. If you've ever seen 'Remember the Titans,' it's similar to that. Maybe not quite on the same level, but we try to get everyone out, even JV, to have a little bonding experience together to help strengthen relationships. At night, we had a campfire and every night we'd sit down and we'd talk about our goals. Everyone's goal was to win the championship. We really felt like this was our year. We have great skills guys. Our line has been working together for two years. We have a great quarterback — he is a sophomore, but he has a great arm and he's a great athlete. And our defense is relentless out there.

What's the most important thing you're looking for in a college overall?

Well, I don't think I'm going to go play in the NFL, so I'm really looking for a school that has great academics. It's got to be right for me. The schools I'm looking at, they're small — Williams, Middlebury, Trinity, Amherst, Darmouth, Cornell, schools like that, schools that are pretty small in numbers but I like to have that one-on-one with professors and I like small class sizes.

What does it mean to be an International Baccalaureate candidate?

In the IB, it's pretty rigorous. It's tough trying to be an athlete and also be in the program. It takes really good time management skills. You have to take three high-level classes. They're much more in depth than the standard classes and you also have to do a research paper. I started that over the summer. I'm writing mine on the oysters and the Chesapeake Bay, like the rise and decline. I was actually just talking about it because the recent rain might really affect oyster populations. Because it's a fresh and salt [water] mix they need. Too much fresh water from the rain can kill them.

As an Eagle Scout, what did you enjoy most about scouting?

Camaraderie. Three of my best friends I met doing that. And I've gotten in some awesome trips, especially one to the Florida Keys. We had to paddle like 10 miles in the wind to get to this deserted island to camp there. We did all sorts of fun things, like fishing and snorkeling. It's an awesome experience. It opened a lot of doors for me.

What did you do for your Eagle Scout project?

The elementary school I went to is adjacent to a park (Essex Farms Park). I played baseball there when I was little. I was in contact with what was the Jones Falls Watershed Association because I was looking to do something nature-wise. We noticed that a lot of the trees there had a lot of ivy, foreign invaders like poison ivy, English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle and all these things. If you don't watch them, they can just overrun trees and kill them. Also, when it rains, pesticides on your grass will wash into the stream if the trees don't soak up the water, and that leads to fish kills and other things like that. I got approvals and made a brochure to give out throughout the neighborhood and I told them I would take care of the vines on their property if they wanted me to, but a lot of them were already doing that. I was able to gather about 40-plus volunteers, friends from school. Over one weekend, we were able to eradicate and lop off the vines from over 200 trees. Afterward, I was picking up garbage out of the stream and old tires and glass. The process of killing the vines was if you cut a section at the base of the tree and take out a two-foot section from above that, then the nutrients at the bottom can't reach the top and it all dies. It takes a month or two and the rest of it just falls off. A lot of these trees never had the opportunity to lose those vines and some of [the vines] were the size of your leg. It takes like an hour to cut.

How did you get interested in so many outdoor sports?

Some of it stems from my grandfather. We had a beach house in Bethany Beach, Del., and he'd take me surf fishing and I fell in love with it. I love it more than I do football. Skiing, I learned from my parents. We used to visit one of my aunts who lived in New York, around Buffalo, and after I got better, we started traveling out west to places like Beaver Creek, Colo., [and] Beaver Valley, Ontario.

So fishing is your favorite?

Without a doubt. I just do everything for fishing — surf fishing, fly fishing. Time is more of an issue now, especially with the IB program. I didn't have that in ninth and 10th grade and I would go out almost every single weekend. I didn't have a car either, so I used to have to ask my mom or I'd ask my uncle to take me. I remember one time, probably it was February, when it was absolutely freezing, but I had to get out there. There was no I way I could be stuck inside, so my mom took me out to White Hall, which is a favorite fishing spot of mine along the NCR trail. It was probably 35 degrees out. I waded into the river and I didn't have any gloves on, which was probably not a great idea, and I started getting really, really cold. The rod, where the line is, started to freeze over and I'd have to keep getting rid of the ice, but I caught some really great fish.

What has been your favorite adventure trip?

Definitely the Wyoming trip this summer. I always wanted to go out there, and my dad had a conference, and he let me go on a one-day trip by myself and another one with him, fly fishing guided trips. It was awesome out there. Out west, it's so serene.


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