Q&A WITH SENIOR ALEX CARLTON

Alex Carlton

Alex Carlton

Sept. 12, 2011

Why did you choose to come to West Point?
I decided to come to West Point because of the opportunities it offered both athletically, and most importantly academically. I did not know much about it until I was being recruited for football. Once I learned of the all the history and tradition that exists at the Academy, I knew that it was the best fit for me. West Point is one of the best schools in the country, and just to be given an opportunity to attend such a prestigious institution was an honor. I looked at a couple of other schools, and there was no comparison. West Point gave me the best chance to excel both athletically and academically, and also gave me an opportunity to serve my country as an officer.

What does it mean to you to be an Army football player?
Being an Army football player means a lot. There is nothing better than being part of a team with so much tradition. It's truly a surreal experience when I walk past the case with three Heisman trophies in it. It also means so much because of the brotherhood that exists between all the players. Coach (Rich) Ellerson talks about being more than just "casual acquaintances" and it is really true. The Army football team is such a close knit group, and it's awesome to be a part of it. It is also awesome to be a part of teams that are "bringing it back." Last year was a great year for the program, and it was an honor to be a part of the first bowl-winning team in a long time.

How has playing football at Army changed you?
Army football has changed me a lot. I definitely think that it has made me a better leader. All of the military training and leadership classes we take here help a lot in becoming a better leader, but I don't think anything has helped me more than football. Football has prepared me for being a platoon leader. It has taught me how to trust the man to the left and right of me, which is essential in combat operations. It has also taught me how to overcome adversity. There are a ton of things that go wrong in a football game, and you have to be able to handle every situation. It is going to be the same way in combat. There are going to be a lot of tough times, and as the leader, I am going to be looked at to handle it. Being an Army football player will definitely prepare me for those situations.

Describe your fondest memory of Army football.
My fondest memory as an Army football player actually didn't even occur in a game. It was great winning the bowl game last year, which is a tremendous memory. The game-winning kick against Vanderbilt my sophomore year was also a great memory, but my fondest memory was when Medal of Honor recipient Buddy Bucha came and spoke to the team last season. How many people can say that they have had a Medal of Honor recipient speak to them? Mr. Bucha's words were truly inspiring, but the most inspiring and surprising part of the whole thing was when Mr. Bucha took off his Medal of Honor and gave it to (then-senior) Steve Anderson to evoke some motivation within the team. That was one of the most inspiring gestures I have ever witnessed in my life. It was amazing to hear how he overcame so much adversity and how humble and modest he was about the situation. It is something that I will remember for a very long time.

WHEN DID YOU BECOME A KICKER AND WHY?
I started kicking in eighth grade. I played soccer until eighth grade, which really helped me a lot with becoming a kicker. I really had no intentions of moving from soccer to football until my older brother began kicking. He had played soccer his first two years in high school and then switched to kick for the football team during his junior year. Going and watching his football games really made me want to be a kicker. I always was out kicking with him whenever he went. When he started kicking in college was when I decided that this is what I want to do. I decided to stop playing soccer in eighth grade and focus solely on kicking. I loved soccer, but once I started kicking I began to love football even more. I really feel that football is a huge reason for where I am today. I do not think I would have had an opportunity to attend the Academy had I not decided to kick.

DEPENDING ON THE SITUATION, HOW DOES THE MENTALITY OF A KICKER CHANGE THROUGHOUT THE GAME?
Being a kicker is a very mental position. You really have to be focused the entire game, because you never know when your name is going to be called. You have a lot of time between plays to think about things. For kickers, this time is best used thinking about the next kick. Imagery is a very important tool for a kicker. I use imagery throughout the entire game. I try to focus on my best kicks, and kicks from different spots on the field. That way, when my name is called, I have already made that kick in my mind. I work a lot with the Center for Enhanced Performance here at the Academy. Those folks really help with the mental side of the game, and as a kicker it is very important. Situations are constantly changing in a game, but the most important thing as a kicker is to take every kick the same way. No matter what the situation is, it is still the same motion and the same kick. Being able to trust your mechanics and your muscle memory is the most important thing.

IF YOU WERE NOT PLAYING FOOTBALL, WHAT OTHER SPORT WOULD YOU PLAY?
I love football so much, and I honestly could not imagine myself not playing, but if I had to pick another sport it would probably be golf. Although I am not very good at golf, I love to play. The West Point Golf Course is very nice, and I try to get out as much as possible. There are a lot of guys on the team who play, and many of them are pretty good. It's a lot of fun to get out with the guys for a round. If I wasn't playing football, I would probably spend a lot more time on the golf course. I am definitely not nearly as good at golf as I am at football, so I would need a lot of time for practice.

What branch do you want to enter after graduation and why?
My goal is to branch Engineers. I am a Civil Engineering major, and I feel that Engineers would be the most logical fit for me. I also think that, as a Civil Engineer, I will really enjoy the work I do as an officer in the Engineer branch. There are countless opportunities in the Engineers, and I look forward to being a part of a bunch of them. The Engineer branch will also give me great opportunities to gain working experience as a Civil Engineer. Work experience is very important for achieving different levels of Engineering. I think that one day I will try to become a Professional Engineer, and the Engineer branch will certainly set me up for success.

What is the most important lesson you have learned while at West Point?
I have learned a lot of things in my time at the Academy, but the most important thing I have learned is to trust the people around you. In the Army, it is all about trust. If you cannot trust the man to your left and right there is no way that you will accomplish the mission. Trusting soldiers is key to accomplishing the mission and it also keeps people alive. The Academy has shown me how important it is to trust the people around you. During summer training events you really learn how important it is. There have been plenty of times where we did not trust each other during an operation, and things went very wrong. Lucky for us, it was only a training exercise, but it definitely made it clear how important trust is. The Academy has set me up with all the tools necessary to be a great officer after graduation.

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