Former Canadian star Alexander returns from Afghanistan
First Lieutenant Ryan Alexander made his way back to the United States in mid-July, following a nine month tour in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger.
Alexander is a former two-time state champion for the Canadian Wildcat football team.
He followed up on his prestigious high school football playing days by attending West Point Academy on a full scholarship to play football for the Black Knights.
Alexander played in 29 games for Army, predominantly on the offensive line after making the switch from defense as a sophomore. The 6-foot-1, 250 pound Alexander, who graduated from West Point in 2016, was even fortunate to play in college football’s oldest of rivalries, Army vs. Navy.
Post college, Alexander had fulfilled the duties required of the United States Armed Forces.
Nine months ago, he led a group of 24 soldiers for the 10th Mound Division—a division “that prides itself on being able to deploy rapidly.”
Alexander’s platoon patrols a 10 mile radius around an airfield—limiting access to any who pose a threat.
“Being a platoon leader is basically as close as you can get to the fight.” Alexander said.
Alexander is not shy of a challenge. When asked about the path to his current rank, Alexander shared the hardships he had faced in athletics that prepared him for those moments.
“The Canadian Wildcat football program is 100,000 percent why I‘m here,” Alexander said. “Everything I learned in sports carried over to help me be successful.”
Alexander hasn’t forgotten his roots. He carries on a valuable relationship with mentor and Canadian head football coach Chris Koetting. Koetting has had an ever-lasting impact on the First Lieutenant's drive, leadership and life.
“He’s such a great coach,” Alexander said. “It all started when he gave me a list of workouts in the sixth grade.”
Playing for Koetting and the Wildcats instilled a passion to work hard. Alexander praised Koetting, saying he “molds young men for the better.”
Koetting has nothing but the same respect when talking about his former player as well; explaining the work ethic, passion and the unselfishness of Alexander.
“I looked up to him when I coached him,” Koetting said. “It’s just something you don’t see from most young men.”
While Koetting has made a lasting mark on Alexander, he admits that Alexander “made an even bigger impact in his life.”
Alexander’s path was no easy feat. After being plagued with injury in high school and college, he felt the adversity prepared him for the real world.
“I found myself at the bottom of the depth chart [in college],” Alexander said. “I had to work my way back up.”
In Alexander’s athletic experience, the trait that stuck with him the most was “getting your job done...being tough.”
“No one cares if you’re tired or had a bad day, they just expect you to get your job done.”
Alexander’s history of being tough translates from his playing days for the Wildcats.
Alexander is one of the best players to ever wear a Canadian uniform. He recorded an incredible 58 varsity games from 2007-2010. Through injury and sickness, Alexander was one game shy of playing every possible game a high school player could ever play in a single career.
The path Alexander has followed throughout his life is a lightly traveled road—from being a Texas high school football legend and being the smallest starting NCAA Division I offensive tackle in the country to leading a platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan.
“I used lessons from football and how my dad ran his store, Alexander’s, to lead my guys.” Alexander offered several encouraging words to current athletes, saying, “don’t ever feel like you’re done working...athletics offers everything you need to succeed in the real world if you take a step back and listen [to your coaching staff].”
While Alexander is not currently deployed, he will remain in Fort Drum, New York—where he will prepare for his platoon’s next deployment within the next two to three years.