In the Huddle: Trip south gives NU’s Sarner a different view of what’s important | TheUnion.com

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In the Huddle: Trip south gives NU’s Sarner a different view of what’s important

Alec Sarner was a thousand miles from any American football field. In fact, the only “football” the natives knew was the type where one kicks a round ball into a goal. For the moment, his exploits on the gridiron were the farthest thing from his mind.

He was in the town of Queseria. This was the worst stop yet. The migrant workers lived in deplorable conditions to harvest sugar cane. The state of Colima is one of Mexico’s poorest. Queseria is a challenge for the eye.

The children do not have shoes. Their clothes appear to be hand-me-downs from decades ago. The conditions are dirty. It looks like a shanty town with shacks in such poor shape a strong wind might level the encampment.

Sarner is there to provide aid as part of Rotary’s Project Amigo. His task will be to deliver fluoride treatment, books, clothes and shoes. All children will be afforded a dental check up. Each destination is challenging. This is the most difficult.

“It was surprising,” remembers Sarner. “I never realized there was such poverty in Mexico. It was real. I was there in this impoverished community. Their houses were in such poor condition. It was shocking.”

Nevada Union football has become one of the two focal points of his life. While he anchors the offensive line of this year’s edition of Miner Magic, he also takes the time to dedicate himself scholastically. Alec Sarner is a rare breed.

His nickname is Rhino. Alec is fairly soft spoken. He prefers to talk with his pads. He is an amazing person, an incredible competitor. He is one of those rare specimens of striking integrity combined with humble talent. If one has the privilege of crossing Sarner’s path, he will most assuredly be the better for it. He changes people. He transitions lives.

Coach Rayce Lucas comments, “Over the last five weeks, Alec has taken charge and become the leader of the offensive line. What I like is his openness to work on the little things that make big results.”

Sarner is an anomaly in Mexico. Most of the children have never seen a man of Alec’s stature. They jump on him in waves. Each one wants a piece of the Gentle Giant. He is 6-feet-3-inches tall and 260 pounds. That is gigantic by Mexican standards. They flock to him. Some gawk. Others stare from a distance. All are drawn to him. That is only one of the factors that makes Alec unique.

“I don’t think they had ever seen anything quite like me before. It was so new. I was different, but we all came together and interacted so well,” he remembers.

Sarner felt he brightened their lives. For him, it was a part of giving back. The students seemed earnestly interested in meeting him. Like most things in his life, Alec had worked hard to prepare himself for the task at hand. His Spanish had improved immeasurably, and it would make for a richer opportunity.

The Sierra Foothill League campaign is like a new season. Five weeks of a sprint to the finish. Regardless of the pre-season games, it all comes down to the tilts of the weeks ahead. These are the critical moments of this season, these make-it-or-break-it Friday nights.

The offensive line is led by Sarner. He takes this task, as most others in life, with a dogged determination.

“It’s a younger, less experienced line. The way they absorb information is incredible. We improve each week. We prepare hard. We will find more things to work on, but for now, we are where we need to be.”

Every moment reveals a determination in his eyes. This is a serious proposition. His successes mainly lie on the football field and in the classroom. His GPA is 3.9. Alec is a hard worker. He is a player who tutors his other team members. He is a rare breed of one who works hard both on and off the field. The results are evident.

He reflects on the team’s mindset and how tough it is. He knows the importance of league play. He harps on constant improvement, on how this continues to be a work in progress.

Yet, he is proud of his offensive linemen and he obsesses with being the best they can be.

Sarner returns to Colima, Mexico, in February.

He reflects, “I am still able to help. We have to continue to go back and work with them on their dental hygiene. Every single thing we did helped them one way or another. I gave it all I could.”

He has turned very matter-of-fact. He speaks of his Spanish improvement, of how this is a great chance to change Mexico, of how he is looking forward to meeting small friends of two years ago.

“It changed me,” he said. “I have never experienced anything like that. I feel the need to help others. My mission is not over.”

Alec Sarner is a unique sort. He is at times quiet and methodical. On game day, he is very serious. He savors life. He invests greatly in others. Yet, there is that competitive side, the will to win and succeed. He is not satisfied with the ordinary. He searches for the truly unique.

There is something in Sarner one cannot help but admire. It is characteristic of what makes youth great.

Yet, he is evolving. Universities are in hot pursuit of the prize. One of these days, he will have to make that selection. Alec Sarner has a bright future. He is a well rounded guy who inspires others.

The months ahead hold great promise. A stirring end to his high school football career leads the list. A choice of where to invest his college years is a highlight. A return to his volunteer roots to put closure on what he started his sophomore year is a must.

Indeed, Alec Sarner is a man for all seasons. The mark he will leave in Colima, Mexico, and at Nevada Union High School will be indelible.

For now, it is his world. Although things will change as he embarks on new missions, Sarner will always stand out as one of those unique young men who stirs the world and leaves his imprint on all he touches.

Jim Adams lives in Nevada City, is a regular contributor to The Union and a broadcaster for TouchDown Productions. He may be reached via e-mail at adamses@inreach.com.