West St. John retools offense around speedy QB Austin Alexander

Published 12:02 am Saturday, August 6, 2016

EDGARD — There’s a lot of work going on at West St. John High School these days.

Over in the football stadium, workers are putting the final touches on the new artificial turf field the Rams will begin playing on his month.

Meanwhile, over on the practice field, coach Brandon Walters is filling holes.

Standout quarterback Jermoine Green, who was L’OBSERVATEUR’s All-St. John Parish Offensive Player of the Year in 2015, graduated. A pro-style, drop back passer, Green threw for more than 2,700 yards and 27 touchdowns last season.

Those kinds of players don’t just come around every year.

While considering possibilities for Green’s replacement, Walters just happened to look to the track, where he spotted a guy with a bunch of medals hanging from his neck.

That’s Austin Alexander, a rising senior, who was the Class 2A state champion in the 100-meter dash in May. His time of 10.95 seconds was impressive.

He also excels in the 200 meters and is part of the Rams’ relay teams, but had to withdraw from the state championship events after pulling a hamstring during the 100 meters. He still helped the team to an overall runner-up finish.

The problem is, Alexander hasn’t played quarterback since middle school.

“It’s going to be a new experience for me,” he said.

It’s a good thing he also has good genes and a built-in tutor. He is the son of 1998 graduate Adair Alexander, who has a bunch of his own football, basketball and track awards gathering dust somewhere. Adair was the All-District 9-2A quarterback in 1997, but lost out on the All-Metro nod to another guy named Eli Manning.

“We work every day,” Austin said. “He’s helping me a lot.”

Now Walters just has to redesign the offense around the speedy replacement.

“You’ve got to go with the talent you’ve got,” Walters said. “We’re going to be running the ball more this year.”

The good news is there aren’t too many other holes for Walters to fill. Both the offensive and defensive lines are solid, with one loss. Everyone has some experience.

“With us being a small school, everybody plays,” Walters said. “We don’t have to train new players. They’ve all seen action.”

The Rams saw some other action last week.

Former LSU defensive back Ron Brooks, a former Buffalo Bills player who recently signed with the Philadelphia Eagles has a friend in former East St. John player Steven Perrilloux.

Perrilloux helped arrange with Brooks a give-away of some leftover Bills equipment that matched the Rams’ colors.

Players received blue and white gloves from Brooks and one lucky player, Jairon Johnson, a junior wide receiver, was awarded a pair of cleats.

“The coaches got together and decided who had the best camp,” Walters explained. “I stayed out of it. They decided Jairon deserved it.”

In addition, a representative from the Army National Guard came with goodie bags for the players, which included a phone charger, a mug, notebooks and T-shirts. First, however, they had to go through an army-style workout at 5:30 a.m.

“We had our regular football training, we ran a mile or so, then we turned them over to him,” Walters said. “They all had their tongues out when they were done.”