When Alejandro Christopher joined the Amsterdam High School football team prior to the 2019 season, after transferring into the school from just down the road at Broadalbin-Perth, he had a choice to make — chase individual glory or sacrifice for team success.
Christopher came up as a skill position player on offense — primarily tight end — but the Rams had a hole to fill on the offensive line.
Relatively undersized for the position at the time — as a junior, Christopher stood 5-foot-11 and weighed 180 pounds — he stepped up and became an anchor in the trenches for the Rugged Rams while also leading the way on the other side of the ball as a linebacker.
“He’d do anything for anybody,” Amsterdam football coach John Homich said. “He puts the team first before himself.”
Homich praised Christopher for his discipline, work ethic and commitment, all of which he said will make Christopher a perfect fit for his next stop — the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.
Enrolling at a service academy had been a long-held ambition for Christopher as his next step after high school.
“I was really drawn to the opportunity to get to serve my country,” Christopher said. “I’ve always had that will to serve and protect our freedoms.”
In addition to the Coast Guard Academy, he applied to West Point and the Naval Academy. Around January, Christopher zeroed in on the Coast Guard as his preferred destination after a conversation with USCGA football coach C.C. Grant, who offered him the chance to play inside linebacker for the Bears.
“I ultimately wanted to play football,” he said. “The Coast Guard gave me the opportunity to play football.”
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The Coast Guard Academy is the smallest, and is among the most selective, of the five U.S. service academies, traditionally offering appointments to around 400 incoming cadets. This year, the incoming class will be just 285.
While the USCGA, unlike the other four service academies, does not require a congressional nomination as part of the admissions process, the academic and physical requirements are still stringent.
The toughest part of the process for Christopher was the preparation for the academy’s Physical Fitness Exam, where candidates have to reach a passing cumulative score in a test that consists of push-ups, sit-ups and a 1.5-mile run.
“You have to pass that to even be considered for the application process,” Christopher said.
Christopher threw himself headfirst into his physical preparation, training at several local gyms both to get himself ready for the PFE and improve his conditioning for football. Between his junior and senior football seasons, Christopher added around 30 pounds of muscle to his frame while enlisting several local fitness facilities — Perth Ultimate Fitness, Black Lotus Fitness in Amsterdam and Schenectady Youth Boxing — to help him get in peak condition.
“Him and I, we were keeping tabs on things as he was progressing and getting ready for that,” Homich said. “He is such a hard worker. Sometimes, he’s the first one in the gym and the last one to come out. When he has a task to do, he’s going to do it until it’s completed.”
Christopher will head to the academy having already achieved a college degree. A student in the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (PTECH) program, he’ll graduate high school with a 98.94 average while also receiving an associate’s degree in electrical technology from Fulton-Montgomery Community College with a 3.96 grade point average.
“Balancing high school and college at the same time was a lot of work,” he said, “but I got it done.”
When Christopher — who plans to study electrical engineering at the Coast Guard Academy — officially signed his appointment letter earlier this month in front of family, teachers, coaches and classmates, it represented a culmination of a difficult, but rewarding process.
“It meant everything in the world to me,” he said. “It meant that all the hard work and dedication that I’ve put into the past couple years have finally paid off.”