By Conor Walsh
---- — The road to the University of New Mexico was a long one for Gloucester’s Alex St. Peter.
Since the 6-foot-5, 319-pound offensive lineman graduated from Gloucester High School in 2010, he’s had his sights on the bright lights of collegiate football.
He certainly had the frame for it.
So he set off toward that goal. An unpolished but talented St. Peter went the post-graduate route, attending Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia — a prep-school power that has sent more than 70 players, including the likes of Plaxico Burress, Eddie George, Vinny Testaverde and Gaines Adams, to the NFL.
St. Peter’s original plan was to spend two post-graduate seasons with Fork Union in the hopes of a primetime scholarship.
A change in the NCAA’s post-graduate rules, however, forced him to move on, as the governing body of collegiate athletics decided that multiple post-graduate seasons would burn years of college eligibility.
That led to St. Peter’s enrollment at Dean College in Franklin, Mass., for the 2011 season. For St. Peter, though, it was a forgettable season, as an injury left him to the sidelines and lost him the chance to play for Florida State, his then-decided destination.
But that’s where his connections down at Fork Union came in.
“I had gotten looked at by a bunch of D-1 schools,” St. Peter said. “While I was at Dean, I got injured and I was planning on going to Florida State at that point, but they didn’t want me after the injury.
“I talked to my coach at Fork Union, and he said New Mexico’s looking for linemen and looking to rebuild. I didn’t know there was even a D-1 team out there, but I figured, ‘They’re looking to rebuild, so I’ll go for it.’”
Make no mistake about it, the Lobos were about as down as a program could be when St. Peter made his decision to head out to Albuquerque.
Since their last bowl game in 2007, the Lobos had gone a dismal 7-41 in the four seasons prior to St. Peter’s arrival (and 1-11 in 2009, 2010 and 2011).
But the removal of much-maligned coach Mike Locksley and the hire of Bob Davie, former Notre Dame coach and ESPN analyst, has the program revitalized, as New Mexico improved to 4-9 this season.
“When I first met (Davie), I was starstruck to be honest with you,” St. Peter said. “But he’s just a regular guy and it’s pretty cool to be playing for him. He’s a legend.”
And after sitting out this season in compliance with NCAA transfer rules, St. Peter looks to be stepping into a Lobo uniform at the perfect time.
“I love the pride out here,” St. Peter said. “Everybody supports the football team. It’s been rough here the past couple years, and the pride in this team is just mind-blowing to me. I’m honored to be a part of it.
“It was such a turning point this season, and in talking to the older guys it’s just been such a big change around here from what it used to be like.”
Now there’s just one more stop on St. Peter’s long journey to Albuquerque: A starting job.
“Well, we just graduated our right tackle,” St. Peter said, “so that’s the goal.”