Penns Valley football head coach Martin Tobias always watched from the sidelines as Chase Collison and Ben Alexander broke the huddle together, on both sides of the ball.
Collison, a running back and linebacker, and Alexander, a wide receiver and defensive back, were integral parts of the Rams.
But now that they’re moving on, Tobias is excited to see how much the two seniors can grow focusing on one position.
After graduating from Penns Valley, Collison and Alexander will play football collegiately. Collison will compete in Division III at Westminster College (New Wilmington), and Alexander is signed to play Division I-AA football for Liberty (Lynchburg, Va.).
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And Tobias is proud of his two former players.
I’ve been watching them participate in a wide variety of athletic endeavors since elementary school. Then being a part of our program from seventh grade on, they clearly had ability and drive. They love playing the game, and that truly showed as well.
Penns Valley football head coach Martin Tobias
“I’ve been watching them participate in a wide variety of athletic endeavors since elementary school,” Tobias said. “Then being a part of our program from seventh grade on, they clearly had ability and drive. They love playing the game, and that truly showed as well.”
For Collison, he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to play at the next level.
But he went to a recruiting event hosted by Bellefonte, met members of the Westminster coaching staff, and kept in contact.
“Then I went up for a visit, and I just loved it up there,” Collison said.
Collison said he was comfortable with the school’s size — Westminster has just more than 1,500 undergraduates.
“It’s kind of like Penns Valley,” Collison said. “There’s not that many kids, there’s an opportunity to play, and I’m excited about it.”
Tobias said the 5-foot-10, 230-pounder could play both ways, but called him a “real hammer” at running back who barrels forward for extra yardage.
That’s where the Titans will use Collison, at fullback ... with a twist.
Westminster runs the Wildcat.
“They want me to be the guy next to the Wildcat back. I’ll block for him, catching some passes,” Collison said.
But has he ever played in the Wildcat?
“I have not,” Collison said with a grin, “but it’ll be an interesting experience.”
Meanwhile, Alexander will likely be used on the defensive side of the ball at Liberty.
“The wide receiver coach talked to me and said, ‘you know, I could see you at wide receiver. I might have to steal you,’ ” Alexander said. “But I’m going to start as a defensive back.”
And that wide receivers coach — Ron Brown, a longtime assistant at Nebraska under Tom Osborne — is just one member of a well-established coaching staff.
The Flames’ head coach, Turner Gill, was a star quarterback at Nebraska before being head coach at Buffalo and Kansas.
Alexander’s position coach, Marshall Roberts, has been at Liberty since 2004. Prior to joining the Flames, Roberts played in the Arena Football League, interned with the Pittsburgh Steelers and coached linebackers in NFL Europe.
All in all, Alexander is a fan of the staff.
“They’re a lively group. I like how they operate,” Alexander said. “They have a fun atmosphere, but work still gets done.”
Alexander will join the Flames on July 10 for their summer program, and he’s happy he’ll be with Liberty.
In the recruiting process, Liberty had narrowed down a few players for a spot as a preferred walk-on. Alexander had interest from Army, Albany, Shippensburg and other PSAC schools, but was holding out for that offer from Liberty.
It eventually came, and Alexander could breathe a sigh of relief.
“Mostly it was just relaxation,” he said. “The process was over. ... And I’m really at peace with it.”