When Alex Gourley began his freshman year at South Iredell, he just hoped to earn a spot on the Vikings’ varsity football team.From his first practice to his first game, the 6-foot, 260-pound South Iredell starting center didn’t waste any time in proving he could not only make the varsity team but be an impact player as well.Just minutes into his first high school game against Lake Norman, South Iredell coach Scott Miller decided to rearrange his offensive line, putting Gourley, then a freshman, at center and moving former starting center Chris Stone to right guard. Gourley took full advantage of his opportunity, earning all-conference, all-county and all-Lake Norman News honors in helping the Vikings to a 14-2 record and their first-ever N.C. High School Athletic Association 2AA state championship.“Last year was an absolute dream season for our team and myself,” Gourley said. “It couldn’t have been better. I’ve been a big fan of South Iredell football for a long time, so just being a part of the team was a big deal. But to win a state championship and start as a freshman was surreal. It’s all still sinking in. I look at pictures from the game, and it’s hard to remember, it’s hard to believe.”Miller says Gourley even surprised him.“You don’t find many freshmen that start at center for any team, much less a state championship team,” Miller said.“I had heard he was good player, but usually a freshman is a freshman. But from the very first 7-on-7 practice, where we are really looking at skill positions more, he stood out. After two weeks of practice in the summer, we moved him up to varsity.”Gourley has been at center since he started playing football in the fourth grade for his team in the Brawley Area Youth Athletic Association. He followed in the footsteps of his father, Bob, and his brother Rob, both also offensive lineman. Bob played left tackle at Statesville High before graduating in 1985, while Rob was the starting left tackle on last year’s South Iredell with Alex.The family tradition not only helped Alex Gourley learn to play his position but also to love it.“I have always taken a lot of pride in being an offensive lineman and what we do,” Gourley said. “Being an offensive lineman, you aren’t going to get a lot of the attention or glory. Most of the time, people only notice us when we mess up. But I couldn’t imagine playing anywhere else.”Gourley and the other offensive linemen have been a big part of the Vikings’ 4-0 start this season, as the sophomore center is part of a talented group that also includes senior right guard Keegan Bustle, junior right tackle Matt Crisp, junior left guard Dorian Vinson, and senior left tackle Malik Flippen. The Vikings’ line has helped an offense that averages 340 yards per game while outscoring their opponents 152-27. Gourley says the key to the offensive line is that they are all like family.“On our offensive line, everybody is like a brother,” Gourley said. “I’ve actually had a brother (Rob) on the offensive line, but once that ball is snapped, we are all brothers. There is a real bond between us.”While some offensive linemen take an aggressive approach to the game, Gourley has more of an intellectual way of thinking, always focusing on his technique and footwork.Gourley says the center has to remain calm in the chaos at all times and make sure that every snap, whether the quarterback is under center or in the shotgun, is perfect.“Most people think of offensive lineman as a big, rough guy,” Gourley said. “But you have to smart and you have to be as organized as possible. Defenses are trying to create as much havoc as possible.”And that’s where Gourley – who has a 4.8 weighted grade point average – can use his mind and body to beat his opponents.“Alex just does what he needs to do on every play,” Miller said. “If he needs to plant you on the ground, he will do that. If he needs to just finesse a player, he will do that. But the main thing is that Alex never takes a play off, he is working hard all the time.”While Gourley is totally focused on his sophomore season, he is already being recruited by a lot of college teams including Division I schools like Brigham Young, Clemson, Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State.Gourley got a lot of exposure this summer at camps at Davidson, Duke, N.C. State, Princeton and Wake Forest. He also was invited to the Rivals’ 250 Underclassmen challenge camp in Dallas, and the Top Gun Football University camp in Dublin, Ohio.Gourley is getting stronger every day, as he can squat more than 500 pounds and bench press 315 pounds, and he ran an impressive personal-best 5.16-second 40-yard dash at the Wake Forest camp this summer.While Gourley has achieved a lot, he knows he needs to continue to get bigger and stronger, as Miller believes his size is the only thing holding him back from major Division I offers.“College coaches have their measurables, and I think if Alex was 6-4 or 6-5, he already would have offers,” Miller said. “But he is still growing, and he is still a baby when it comes to high school football. I believe he is going to be a major Division I player.”“I always try to focus on what I can do to get better,” Gourley said. “Playing college football has always been a dream for me and I’m going to do everything I can to get there.”
Monday, Sep. 30, 2013
Gourley makes an impact for Vikings
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer for the Lake Norman News. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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