by Director of Athletic Communications, Shaun Ihasz
Midshipmen Lieutenant Alex Coviello (Cape Coral, FL) thought he had played his final collegiate game, a 33-12 victory over St. Lawrence at Brooks Stadium, which he called home for four seasons. One week later, the senior quarterback walked out of Head Coach Mike Toop's office knowing he had one more game to play. What Coviello would soon discover is that his trip would be one of the most unforgettable experiences of his football career.
Coviello was headed to Guadalajara, Mexico to represent the USA as part of a team of D-III NCAA all-stars in Tazón De Estrellas, which translates to "Bowl of the Stars". The American contingent, Team Stars & Stripes, would face off with the CONADEIP all-stars, a squad comprised of players from the national conference of private schools in Mexico.
The game was played Saturday, December 15, but the days leading up to those sixty minutes between the white lines reveal the strong character of a young man who represents the United States Merchant Marine Academy. Thursday afternoon, Coviello and the rest of Team Stars & Stripes took time away from preparation and practice to visit with the children at Valle del Sol. While there the team held a football clinic for the kids and helped clean up the community by picking up trash, pulling weeds, and building cement walls.
"This was without a doubt the most beneficial and rewarding experience of the trip," said Coviello. "The simple joy of throwing a football or having a person to look up to had the children's faces glowing with happiness."
Coviello's leadership was immediately recognized by his new teammates. Just hours after the trip to Valle del Sol the Head Coach of Team Stars & Stripes, Don De Waard, announced the team would be voting for four captains. It seems almost poetic that Coviello, whose USMMA helmet bears a U.S. flag on each side, would serve as a captain of the United States' squad.
"Coach told us to vote for who we thought was deserving and showed good leadership skills and play throughout the week," said Coviello. "I was fortunate to be recognized by my peers and it was a tremendous honor to be named a team captain."
Then came the business of game time. Coviello completed his experience in Mexico the way any competitor would want to, with a win. Team Stars & Stripes knocked off the CONADEIP all-stars, 32-15, avenging last season's loss and evening the overall series at 2-2.
"Winning the game was still important," said Coviello. "We did not come back to the U.S. with a loss in 'American' football; a game that I feel defines our country."
One of the great traditions in college football is the playing of a school's fight song after a victory. Obviously, the United States doesn't have a traditional fight song. It has something better. With his teammates circled around him in the locker room, Alex Coviello led his team in the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. The video of those proud young men evokes an emotion, delivering a message that goes beyond the X's and O's. In that moment you remember not only what it is to be a proud American but you recognize the strength, unity, personal character provided to our youth by a game we have grown to love.
For Coviello, that anthem is yet another fitting end to his time in a football uniform. After graduation, he will be commissioned as an officer in the United States Naval Reserve and sail in the maritime industry.
"This experience was a wonderful way to end my career as a college player," said Coviello. "It's kind of bitter sweet. I'm thankful that my body will get a break, but at the same time my competitive spirit will miss the game and all the great teammates I have had."
Coviello wanted to make sure he acknowledged those who made his trip a reality, "I would like to thank coach Toop, Croall, Robertson, Carron, and the rest of the coaching staff for making this season the best season of my four years here. I am extremely thankful to the Mariner Gridiron Club and all alumni donors who made this trip possible. Words cannot describe how appreciative I am for getting the chance to play in the Tazón de Estrellas."
"Being able to represent my country and the Merchant Marine Academy, at the same time, in an international football game is a once in a lifetime occurrence."
Midshipmen Lieutenant Alex Coviello not only represents the United States Merchant Marine Academy. He embodies the qualities you look for in the best of the best. Coviello is intelligent, humble, driven, selfless, and honest. He is a Mariner.