High School Sports

Penns Valley’s Ben Alexander named male Inspiring Athlete of the Year for excelling in football, basketball

Penns Valley’s Ben Alexander, who excelled in football and basketball for the Rams, was named the Centre Daily Times’ male Inspiring Athlete of the Year.
Penns Valley’s Ben Alexander, who excelled in football and basketball for the Rams, was named the Centre Daily Times’ male Inspiring Athlete of the Year. adrey@centredaily.com

Throughout his childhood, his family saw glimpses of the athleticism and drive that would fuel his standout career at Penns Valley.

When Ben Alexander was 2 years old, he stuck his feet in the back of the couch, leaned back over the front of it and started doing situps. At his older brother’s soccer games, while kicking a ball around, the track coach noticed his speed and couldn’t wait for Alexander to get to high school.

Until 10th grade, he’d get home on Fridays and immediately do his homework so he didn’t have to worry about it during the weekend. He’d “show up” his older siblings by doing things around the house. They still often laugh about the time a 7-year-old Alexander unloaded the dishwasher without being asked and answered the phone at the same time.

“We’re all just looking at him like who is this?” said his mother, Joleen. “But always very driven.”

When he reached high school, the rest of the county got to see Alexander use that athleticism and drive to leave his mark.

The Rams star turned in unforgettable performances on the football field, finishing with 955 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns in the fall. He played a crucial role on the basketball court, averaging 13.9 points and 5.4 rebounds to help his team earn its first PIAA tournament win in school history.

For his achievements in both sports, he was named the Centre Daily Times male Inspiring Athlete of the Year.

“In my opinion, if he would pick up chess or lawn darts or bowling and decide he wanted to be good at it, he’s that talented of an athlete and that smart of a kid that he would find a way to be phenomenal at it,” Rams athletic director Nate Althouse said.

Through it all, Alexander remained humble with the help of his family and faith.

Alexander was adopted when he was 6 months old and didn’t have much exposure to football early as his mother said “we weren’t really a big football family.”

It was only last year that his father put an antenna on the chimney to get a few television channels so he could watch some sports.

But when he started playing flag football in sixth grade, he fell in love with the game.

“I don’t know what it was,” said Alexander, a Liberty football commit. “But it was, I guess you could say something magical.”

It’s an apt description for some of Alexander’s performances in high school.

As a junior, he set a county record with 384 yards rushing and scored every point for the Rams in a 49-44 loss to Huntingdon.

Everyone in the stadium knew Alexander was going to run the ball that night.

But the quarterback couldn’t be stopped.

“It was almost like backyard football,” Althouse said.

“He just blew us all away and later on when we were talking to him, he said he went in at halftime and he thought, ‘I have nothing left. I don’t have anything left,’” his mother said. “We’re Christians and we have a lot of faith and he said he just got down and started praying, ‘Lord, if you want more from me, you’re going to have to give me the strength to do it.’

“And second half again, he just went out and played like crazy.”

Alexander played wide receiver and defensive back during his senior year and continued to make plays.

In a win over Bald Eagle Area, he returned a kickoff for a touchdown, returned an interception for a touchdown and hauled in a touchdown pass.

Unlike football, he didn’t excel on the basketball court from a young age. He was “really bad” in sixth grade, but he was driven to get better.

And he did over the years.

This season, he consistently produced at both ends of the floor as the Rams made a run to the second round of the PIAA Class AA playoffs.

It marked the end of Alexander’s career at Penns Valley, where he amazed his family and others with his achievements.

“I’m an engineer,” said his father, Ray. “I was a nerd or basically still am, so I really don’t have the eye to see it, to see somebody that’s really good at sports. I just don’t. But everybody that ever coached him or worked with him has said he’s just a very gifted athlete.”

Althouse said “he’s one of the best athletes in the history of Penns Valley.”

He followed that lofty praise by calling him “a class guy.”

His family has helped him keep sports in perspective as his siblings joke with him about being the “big shot on campus” and the “favorite child.”

He knows there’s more to life than sports.

His faith has shown him that. He’s been on mission trips with his church and had an eye-opening experience helping the homeless.

“It grounded me because they didn’t know what kind of athlete I was,” Alexander said. “They just saw that I was a good person.

“I don’t really care if people know that I’m a really good athlete or not. I just want them to know I’m an even better person, trying to be a better person, a nice person.”

Ryne Gery: 814-231-4679, @rgery