Chaska senior Alex Strazzanti could have played it safe. He could have taken a full ride scholarship from one of many Division II colleges in the Midwest. Based off a successful high school career Strazzanti has confidence in his abilities. With that confidence, he is forgoing the sure thing and following his dream. He accepted a preferred walk-on offer to play for the Minnesota Gophers.
The Hawks won six games last fall – including a first-round playoff win.
“We were a powerful team,” Strazzanti said. “We had a great running back and running game. Towards the end of the year, we picked up defensively.”
Like every player who doesn't end his career in the state tournament, the three-year starter would have liked the season to have lasted a few games longer but was happy with his own performance.
“I thought I had a very good senior season,” Strazzanti said. “Obviously one of my goals was to make it to State, which I was unable to do, but overall I had a good career at Chaska.”
During his three-year varsity career, he rarely came off the field.
“The offense allowed me to make a lot of decisions on my own. It allowed me to be loose,” the option quarterback said. “The triple option fit me well. I feel I am one of the more athletic quarterbacks in the state. I am quick and shifty, can escape with my athleticism, but then I am also smart with the ball. I didn't have many turnovers.”
A two-way player, Strazzanti also started at safety.
“I am versatile,” Strazzanti said. “I can play multiple positions. From sophomore to senior year I have played outside linebacker, free safety, strong safety and middle linebacker. I would say I am one of the most physical players on the field. I feel like no one can out hit me on the field and I take pride in being the hardest hitter out there.”
Strazzanti had even more success as a team with the basketball team.
“It was a season we've been dreaming about since fourth grade,” said Strazzanti, whose Hawks advanced to the 4A state basketball tournament. “It was a good group of guys, and we had a lot of fun. I played point guard and was kind of a shutdown defender. I think the skills translated well between football and basketball. They would always put me on the best player and ask me to shut him down.”
This spring he is focusing on getting ready for college football; where he was going to play college football took many twists and turns.
“It had its ups and downs, but overall (recruiting) was a great experience,” Strazzanti said. “I got to meet a lot of new people. I had just about every DII offer, and then I narrowed it down to Mankato and Augustana. I also had a PWO offer from Iowa State. From there I realized DII was not the route I wanted to go.'
Strazzanti bet on himself.
“I had faith in myself and chose to take a different route,” Strazzanti explained. “I have confidence in myself, and I ended up at Minnesota. There were big pros and cons with DII or Minnesota. I would have basically had a full-ride scholarship (going DII), but DI was a higher level of competition. Personally, I thought I could play at that level, and I still do. When it came down to it, this was something I had to prove to myself.”
Strazzanti was invited to Minnesota's junior day then went to a practice. In January things picked up. Everything was on track for him to walk on as a safety, but then the coaching change was made.
“That delayed the process – which is not what I wanted at all – but I have always wanted to play for Minnesota. With the DII offers, they were on a time limit, so with the coaching change, it delayed everything. The DII offers needed to know if I was going to take it or not. I hadn't heard anything from (the new coaching staff at) Minnesota. I was putting it on my faith and banking on it would all work out in the end. I had confidence in myself, so I turned down the two DII offers because I believed I could play at the U. It all worked out in the end.”
Strazzanti told northstarfootballnews.com the new staff at Minnesota like how physical he plays at safety. They also like how versatile he is.
They must also like his confidence. Strazzanti took a huge risk and so far it has paid off in the form of a chance to fulfill his dream of playing Division I football.