Midshipmen Lieutenant Alex Coviello of Cape Coral thought he had played his final collegiate football game, a 33-12 victory over St. Lawrence at Brooks Stadium, which he called home for four seasons.
One week later, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy senior quarterback walked out of head coach Mike Toop's office knowing he had one more game to play. Coviello soon discovered 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 on a team of D-III NCAA all-stars in Tazon De Estrellas, which translates to "Bowl of the Stars." The American contingent, Team Stars & Stripes, faced off with the CONADEIP all-stars, a squad of players from the national conference of private schools in Mexico.
The game was played on Dec. 15, but the days leading up to those 60 minutes between the white lines reveal the strong character of a young man who represents the USMMA. Coviello and the rest of Team Stars & Stripes visited with the children at Valle del Sol. While there, the team held a football clinic for the kids and helped clean up the community of 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."
Just hours after the visit, Team Stars & Stripes coach Don De Waard, announced the team would vote for four captains, including Coviello.
"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."
Coviello completed his experience in Mexico the way any competitor would want to - with a win. Team Stars & Stripes defeated 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."
After graduation, Coviello 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 bittersweet. 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."