Truth be told, new Portland State signee Alex Kuresa is not an admirer of the nickname bestowed upon him by Snow College fans last fall.
Whenever Kuresa made a big play in a game, Snow fans would bellow, ‘Alex Football!’
The nickname fits perfectly, though, and Kuresa will carry it with him to Portland State after recently signing a letter of intent with the Vikings.
Just like Johnny Manziel, Kuresa became a high school football legend in his home state of Utah by amassing eye-popping, video-game statistics. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Utah in 2010, passing for 3,983 yards and 38 touchdowns during his senior season at Mountain Crest High School in Millville, UT.
“It made me laugh when the fans would say that, but they say my game resembles Manziel’s,” Kuresa told Viking Tales. “But I tell people there is only one Johnny Football. I’m not a fan of the nickname, I’ve never liked it much. But in a small town where Snow is, people get excited. They got a bit overzealous with the nickname, but it is cool to be compared to a player like Johnny.”
During his decorated high school career, Kuresa set state records in Utah for total yards (12,917), passing yards (10,951), touchdown passes (101) and completions (751).
Yeah, he was – and perhaps still is – a big deal in the Beehive State.
However, besides remarkable career statistics, Kuresa shares a coach-disapproving physical trait with Manziel – both are about 6-feet tall, resulting in some college coaches wanting them to play a position other than quarterback at the next level.
“He (Manziel) was looking for an opportunity (coming out of high school) and I’m the same way,” Kuresa said. “I’m an undersized, 6-foot quarterback. I’m just looking for an opportunity to prove myself. Johnny Manziel proved himself and became Johnny Football. I feel I have proven myself as much as I can at the levels I’ve played at with the opportunities I’ve been given. I’m just looking for another opportunity at Portland State.”
Kuresa’s college career at the Division I level has not matched the numbers he accumulated in high school after originally with home state Brigham Young in February of 2011.
He redshirted in 2011 and played sparingly as a wide receiver in 2012 with four receptions for 51 yards. He touched the ball seven times, adding three rushing attempts for nine yards.
Following the 2012 season, Kuresa left for his Mormon mission to American Samoa, an island chain in the South Pacific Ocean. He returned home in December of 2013 expecting to rejoin the BYU football program.
But he was told by the Cougars coaches that if he wanted to play meaningful snaps in Provo, he had to shift to wide receiver full-time rather than focusing on his preferred position of quarterback.
As a result, Kuresa faced a difficult decision – stay at BYU and catch passes or transfer to another school where he would get a shot at quarterback.
Kuresa decided to leave BYU.
“When I came back, my scholarship was not available for the next (2014) season, so I had to walk-on,” Kuresa said. “And they were trying to transition me to more of an ‘athlete’ position. Between those two factors, I decided to go to Snow College and play quarterback and be on scholarship. However, it was always my intention to go back to BYU.
“I agreed to play receiver, safety, Wildcat and special teams (in 2012) before I went on my mission. When I came back, I thought I was going to be a quarterback again. But when I came back from my mission early, they already had a quarterback. So, it was either sit on the bench (as a quarterback) or contribute (at another position). So, right before Christmas, I decided to pursue another opportunity.”
He enrolled in January of 2014 at Snow College, a two-year institution located in Euphraim, UT adjacent to the Manti-La Sal National Forest in the middle part of Utah.
Seemingly reenacting his prolific high school days, Kuresa flourished at Snow by completing 62.7 percent of his passes for 2,374 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also led Snow in rushing with 592 yards and eight touchdowns on 99 carries.
Alex Football was indeed back.
“I had a very good season,” Kuresa said. ”I had a lot of weapons around me. We had a new offensive coordinator. It fun learning the offense. I wish I had another season there just because towards the end of the season we were really clicking. We had a very similar offense to the one they’re planning to run at Portland State this year. So, a lot will translate over.”
In spite of his prolific numbers, when Kuresa started looking around for another Division I institution willing to offer him a scholarship as a quarterback, interest waned.
“I really wanted to play quarterback, so the schools that told me I could play quarterback, I looked at them first,” Kuresa said. “It wasn’t the only factor, but it was a big factor, no doubt about it.”
Besides Portland State, the only schools to “pull the trigger” and tell Kuresa he could play quarterback were Division II or NAIA schools. However, several major schools contacted him during the recruiting process last fall, including LSU, Auburn, Michigan and Oregon State (after Gary Anderson, the head coach at Utah State when Kuresa was playing in high school, took over in Corvallis in December). But nothing materialized.
“Coach Anderson was the first coach to offer me a scholarship in high school when he was at Utah State, and he contacted me when he was still at Wisconsin,” Kuresa said. “When he moved to Oregon State, I was in contact with him again. I was in contact with a lot of schools, but nobody pulled the trigger. Then Portland State came along and they pulled the trigger. That had a big effect on me. You always want to go play where you feel wanted.”
Home state schools Southern Utah, Weber State, Utah State and Utah all passed on the chance last fall to offer Kuresa an opportunity to play quarterback, a scenario he described as “definitely frustrating.”
“At what point do the numbers not speak for themselves,” Kuresa said. “Everybody says I’m too small or too active in the pocket. They all had their reasons.”
Portland State gladly walked through the door left open by the refusal of many other schools to give Kuresa a chance to play quarterback.
“He’s the only kid I ever saw with a 39-and-a-half minute highlight video,” Portland State coach Bruce Barnum marveled. “He is a guy we watched as a staff and said, ‘We have to get this guy on our football team.’”
Portland State expressed interest towards the end of the 2014 season, Kuresa and his wife took an official visit to the Rose City the weekend of Feb. 6-7 and he signed with the Vikings shortly after returning home.
“I’m not a city kid, so it was definitely a culture shock,” Kuresa said of his visit. “It’s different, but definitely exciting. I love where Portland State is located. When football gets rolling, it will pick up even more. It will be a different experience starting a new adventure with my wife being on our own. I was just looking somewhere that my wife would be comfortable and feel safe, and where I would fit into their playing system.
“My wife is pregnant, so it was important for me to go to a program that was family oriented. When I talked with the Portland State coaches, they are all family guys. I really loved my visit up there. I felt it was a good place to start my family and I felt I fit really into the football program. I like the direction they are headed in.”
Currently residing in Logan, UT, Kuresa plans to enroll at PSU for the start of spring term classes on March 30. Spring football practice begins the following day, and Kuresa expects to be in the middle of the fight for the starting quarterback job along with Kieran McDonagh, Paris Penn and Josh Kraght.
Because Barnum was Kuresa’s primary recruiter, he feels should have little difficulty adjusting to Barnum’s elevation to interim head coach.
“My first contact was with Coach Barnum,” Kuresa recalled. “At that point, I didn’t really know much about Portland State. I lived close to Weber and Southern Utah, but had never really followed the Big Sky too closely. So, I had to do my research on Portland State. I talked to a few guys and they had great things to say about Coach Barnum.”
If you have any comments or questions about this article, please contact Scott Hood at ScottHood63@gmail.com.