Butler's Alston savors opportunity to play for U.S. Elite Team
Jacob Alston has never had the opportunity to travel to Europe before. He intends on making the most of the trip to France he was scheduled to leave for on Sunday.
Alston, a Butler senior, is looking forward to visiting the memorial for the Invasion of Normandy, do some sightseeing ... and, oh, represent his country in a football game.
Alston was selected as a member of the U.S. Elite Team that will compete against France's U-19 national team March 30 in Paris.
“I'm extremely excited for it,” Alston said last week. “I've been counting down the days to when I actually get to head out.”
Alston will be a wide receiver for Team USA. He also played defensive back this past season for Butler, and that is where his future likely lies in the college game. He is being recruited by some Division II and Division III schools.
But before he gets to wear the uniform of a college team, Alston first gets to wear the red, white and blue of his country.
“I can still remember watching the Olympics ever since I was little, cheering on the USA,” Alston said. “And now I get to have the USA name on my chest.”
An organization called American Football Worldwide put together the team to take to France after being asked for a game by the French governing body for American football.
Alston was recommended by the National Collegiate Scouting Association to Jim Barnes, who will coach the U.S. High School Select All-Stars.
“I asked the NCSA for nominees of young people who could fit our profile and be great ambassadors for the sport as well as players,” Barnes said. “Jacob's film was submitted to me. I was very impressed and extended an invitation.”
Alston is also one of Butler's top track athletes. He was a WPIAL championships qualifier in the 200- and 400-meter dashes last year, placing among the top 16 of Class AAA in both.
A hamstring injury limited the 6-foot-2, 173-pound Alston last year, leaving him to question his future in football. Also active in the school musical and other activities, Alston ultimately decided to play.
He made an impact, making 25 tackles (15 solo) as the team's starting free safety and also catching six passes in spot duty on offense.
“He had a very solid senior year for us,” first-year Golden Tornado head coach Clyde Conti said. “He's a real athletic boy with good speed. He comes from a great Christian family of nice people.
“He's a well-rounded type of kid, involved in a number of activities. He's going to do very well for himself in whatever he does; he has that ability. He has a great opportunity to go to France, and hopefully the experience works out very well for him. We're excited he has that experience.”
Alston's senior year already has produced quite the story. Coming off a long string of last-place finishes, Butler's football team had its first playoff appearance in 14 years.
“At the beginning of the season, we all looked at each other and said, ‘Hey, why not this year?'” Alston said. “'Let's do it this year.' And we all made that our goal and we said we're not going to finish the season without accomplishing our goal.”
Now, Alston joins a 35-man roster representing 14 U.S. states, one that must jell and adopt a gameplan in short order. Playbooks were sent out late last month, and the team will practice in France during the week leading up to the game.
“Coach is letting us know what he expects out of us,” Alston said. “But we're all athletes, we all know the game and understand the game. Yeah, a week's not a long time, but we're treating this like an Olympic sport, so we'll make the most of it and be ready.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.