The man who’ll be kicking against Penn State Saturday, Alex Schmoke, wasn’t a highly-recruited prospect coming out of high school because he didn’t pick up placekicking until later in his high school career.
He was a soccer player but joined the Bellwood-Antis High School football team as a junior in 2017.
The decision has paid off for Schmoke, who is now a grad student placekicker for the University of Delaware after kicking at Saint Francis University the last two seasons.
The Blue Hens make a trip to Penn State this weekend. Schmoke will be playing in Beaver Stadium where he attended many games, just 30 minutes from his hometown.
“Everyone in my family went there, except for me,” Schmoke said. “I was always a huge Penn State fan growing up, and I always dreamed of playing there. I never thought it would actually become reality. I’m just really excited for that game.”
Schmoke’s support group back in Bellwood still keeps plenty of tabs on his career throughout Saint Francis and Delaware, with Bellwood-Antis coach Nick Lovrich being one of his first supporters.
“Probably the biggest crowd he ever played in front of in high school would have been a Tyrone-Bellwood game,” Lovrich said. “They say sometimes 2-to-3,000 people are at that game. To go to Penn State with 100,000 people and it’s in his backyard, that’s so special for him. We’re all really excited for him.”
The Blue Hens started the season last Thursday with a 37-13 road win over Stony Brook. Schmoke handled the kickoff duties in the game, kicking off seven times and getting two touchbacks.
Nate Reed handled the PATs and field goals, going 4 for 5 on PATs and 1-for-2 on field goals. He made a 34-yard field goal but missed from 43.
“It’s been a great competition all camp between me and Nate Reed,” Schmoke said. “(Delaware head coach) Coach (Ryan) Carty always preaches about competition brings out the best in each other, and I think that’s exactly what it’s doing.”
Schmoke, who still has one more year of eligibility after this season, started out his collegiate career at SFU. His focus was mainly on kickoffs as a true freshman in 2019 but was still able to redshirt. The season was canceled in 2020, but when football resumed again for the Red Flash in 2021, Schmoke also found himself doing the PATs and field goals. He went 15-for-17 on field goals with a long of 47, and last season he was 18-for-22 with his first 50-yard field goal of his career.
Schmoke graduated from Saint Francis with a degree in exercise physiology but entered the transfer portal after last season. He is now working toward his masters degree in health promotion.
He admitted that entering the transfer portal was a stressful decision, although he ended his time at Saint Francis on good terms.
“It was almost like I was coming out of high school again because I started kicking late,” he said. “I wasn’t highly recruited. I kind of had a lot of fun with it because I didn’t really have that experience in high school.”
Schmoke will see Saint Francis again the week after the PSU game on Sept. 16 as Delaware hosts the Red Flash.
“It will definitely be a walk down memory lane again,” Schmoke said. “They were all so great to me, the players, coaches and the whole department. I think it will be fun to see some familiar faces that I haven’t seen or talked to in awhile.”
Delaware had always been a special place for Schmoke. He played in the FCS playoff spot last season, and he also made his first collegiate field goal in Delaware Stadium. When it came time to make a decision, Delaware made a lot of sense.
“I didn’t make any decision before I talked to my family,” Schmoke said. “They came on my visit with me, as well as my fiance. We all talked about it after, and we just decided that was the best place for me. It felt like home, really. The people was what I really loved about Saint Francis, and the people at Delaware is the same. Even for how big of a school it was, it really reminded me of a small school. Everyone was so personable with each other.”
And Schmoke also never forgot where he came from, as he has kept in touch with Lovrich and many others from his days at Bellwood. Lovrich sends emails to former players updating them on the program in Bellwood and often asks about the careers of alumni that continued to play in college.
“I’m so proud of him,” Lovrich said. “Alex is a great athlete and that athleticism has really helped him as he’s moved up the ladder. That’s probably one of the reasons why he is so good at what he does. He went to Saint Francis and started off really good there.
“At first he was a soccer player, but baseball was his No. 1 love. His goal was to go play college baseball, and then he got into the football thing. He found his calling. He’s a great kicker at an FCS school. Delaware has a great history of college football, and getting a chance to play at one of the most famous stadiums in the country is just unbelievable.”