NCAA Football: Former GHS kicker shines in college debut

Gilroy's Alex Vega kicks the ball during a kickoff return drill at practice Wednesday.

GILROY—Cal Poly trailed Montana by two points and had just four seconds left on the clock when it turned to Alex Vega. The fate of the game rested on his foot and the Gilroy High alum rose to the occasion. In his debut college game, Vega blasted a career-high 49-yard field goal to lift the Mustangs to a 20-19 win over Montana Sept. 5 in Missoula.
“It took me awhile (to realize the kick won the game), but it eventually set in and it was really exciting,” Vega said. His longest field goal before this game was a 37-yarder he kicked in high school.
And the excitement didn’t end there. Vega was carried off the field by his teammates and interviewed by national news agencies the likes of ESPN and USA Today. He was named the Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week Sept. 7 and the Coca-Cola/Cal Poly Student-Athlete of the Week Sept. 8 for his performance.
Back in Gilroy, his family watched the events unfold via a live stream online. His father Ben said they were in shock as Alex trotted on to the field. While he had won the starting kick-off job, they hadn’t expected him to take field goals. But when the game was on the line, Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh decided Alex had the stronger leg.
“It was quite amazing,” Ben said. “It was dead-center perfect with plenty of room to spare. We were watching and we were just utterly shocked.”
The moment was all that much sweeter given how long Alex had waited for it. Though he graduated from Gilroy High in 2014, he wasn’t asked to walk-on until March 2015. He spent six month training and balancing his schoolwork on his own. And when he finally did get to tryout, he had to compete with six returning kickers. Alex was named one of the top two kickers on the team won a starting role.
“It was very, very emotional,” Alex said, recalling the moment he learned he made the team. “I called my dad right after and told him and told my whole family. It was a great, great feeling after going through that.”
The Sept. 5 win is the Mustangs’ lone ‘W’ so far this year as they lost their next three games. Regardless of how the season pans out, Alex’s stellar kick has a permanent place in his family’s highlight reel.
“We have it on video and we keep on playing it back; it’s surreal,” Ben said. “We’re very proud of him. He represented Gilroy very well.”