Bazzie has taken long way into Herd lineup
HUNTINGTON - From prep school to walk-on to scholarship backup, Alex Bazzie's path to the Marshall football team's starting lineup was neither short nor easy.
Yet now he's here, working with the first team at defensive end in preseason camp. It's a journey that made him realize how important football is to him.
"To see I'm still standing, to be coming from the bottom and rising to the top, I just realize this is all I have and this is all I want to do in life," he said. "It made me a man. Without this, I wouldn't know who I am. I just cherish it as a person, all that football has to offer me."
Bazzie joined Marshall in 2009 as a walk-on from Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia. He redshirted that year, then played limited minutes in 2010, appearing in six games and making eight tackles. His breakthrough came last season, when he earned a scholarship and appeared in every game, posting 21 tackles, nine solo.
With Vinny Curry's departure to the Philadelphia Eagles, Jeremiah Taylor switched sides of the field and into Curry's spot. Bazzie has been working at Taylor's old spot and, at Marshall's first scrimmage Saturday, he recorded seven tackles, including three for a loss.
Bazzie stands 6-foot-2 and a chiseled 225 pounds, but doesn't sport the top-line speed some other defensive ends own. He makes up for it, said defensive line coach J.C. Price, with his football knowledge.
"You have to anticipate things happening to make sure you get yourself into a good position to make a play," Price said. "That's where his football knowledge is really helping. He's a try-hard guy. He consistently plays with great motor and because of this football IQ that allows him to be in position more times than he's now."
The film room was where that knowledge was honed, Bazzie said. He didn't start out as a film-watcher, but as soon as he realized it was his key to seeing the field, he devoured it. Both in the meeting room and on his own, Bazzie watches as much as he can.
"I just watched the game for the entertainment," Bazzie said. "I never really understood what the game had to offer as far as technique and all that. I just watched for the big plays. Being here with Coach Price, he teaches you that there's more to football than just a long pass or a big hit. He teaches you the little things that make big plays."
Defensive coordinator Chris Rippon also credits Bazzie's internal motor for his success.
"He's always gotta play pedal to the metal," Rippon said. "And he's matured in understanding that. He does that and that's why he's in the position he's in."
He's also assuming a leadership position. A redshirt junior, Bazzie has been sharing his experience and knowledge of the defense. Price said that when he listens to Bazzie counsel younger players, he hears that same words the coaches are using.
Bazzie said the team and his role are too important for him to hoard that information for himself. Now that the starting job is in his grasp, he wants to embrace every aspect of it like he does the on-field part - full speed ahead.
"I just look at that as a blessing of an opportunity to show what kind of person I am and what kind of player I am and what kind of game I have," Bazzie said. "Once I saw that opportunity, I couldn't sit back and watch. I had to attack it."