A.J. Alexander always felt homesick at Florida State and wanted to return to central Pennsylvania to be with his young daughter and family.
That turned out to be a great thing for the St. Francis football program, which is getting a high-Division I player dropped into its lap.
Alexander enrolled at SFU, started classes for the spring semester Monday and will have two seasons of eligibility for the Red Flash. He expects to play a slot receiver role similar to what he did at Altoona Area High School.
"I'm just happy to be here right now," Alexander said by phone Monday from Loretto.
Recruited by more than 70 colleges, Alexander chose Florida State and spent three seasons with the Seminoles, redshirting one. He played defensive back his first two years before moving to receiver this past season.
Alexander caught only two passes for 18 yards and carried three times for 12 yards in five games before deciding to transfer in mid-November.
"It was a couple things, but mostly I'd say homesickness," he said of his reasons for leaving. "I wasn't happy, and just leaving my baby every time was hard."
Alexander's daughter, Ajaycia, turns 2 in April.
"I wasn't happy down there," he said. "It was far away, I missed my baby and missed my family.
"People say like, 'It's Florida State, what were you thinking?' and stuff. But it's just all names. You see people getting picked out of D-III schools, D-II. It don't matter where you're at. If you're good, [pro scouts will] find you."
The Flash play in Division I-AA, or FCS, and Alexander will not have to sit out a year because he's transferring to a lower level.
"It was important because I only have two years left, so I can come and compete for a spot," he said.
Some people, he noted, were telling him he should go to IUP, but Alexander chose St. Francis instead. The Flash went 1-10 this past season and have long been a struggling program, but he will get a chance to be a dynamic threat on offense and special teams.
"We're very excited to get him, and I'm happy to have the opportunity to coach a kid of his talent," SFU coach Chris Villarrial said.
"If he comes in and does what we think he can do, he can stretch the field for us, and obviously he's a threat on the outside. It will force teams to get out of that eight-man box and force them to cover him. With his speed, we can throw the ball up to him and he can go get it."
Villarrial said Alexander will give his team opportunities to run wildcat packages, and he's willing to experiment with other things on offense.
"We've got to really accommodate to his skills," the coach said. "With our pro-style offense, that won't be hard to do. But he definitely will open some things up for us."
Alexander said he's "really excited" his family can come watch him play since he will be "right up the street."
"I like what they're doing with the program, and it's close to home so I could be around my baby," he said. "So it was an easy decision."
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.