“Storybook Ending” for one Surprised Cardinal
Completely jaw dropping. That’s how Alejandro Utset, a senior quarterback for the St. John Fisher College football team, describes the moment he saw his father and brother walk into the Ward-Haffey Dining Hall during team breakfast on senior day.
Traveling from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Rochester, New York, to surprise his son before the final home game of his collegiate career took more than a plane ticket. It was a covert operation engineered by fellow Cardinals Demarre Nelson and Brennen Thompson, who rallied their teammates to raise travel funds and make arrangements for Utset’s family to see the game.
“We were in the locker room with Alejandro and heard him talking to his family about whether or not they were going to be able to make it,” Thompson explained. “After he left the locker room, Demarre texted me and we began the process.”
With a simple mass text, the two raised $350 in 20 minutes. And soon, more people pitched in. Teammate Justin Wheeler and his family helped secure a hotel room. Coach Chris Keyes picked Utset’s father and brother up from the airport. Athletics communication staff members helped keep Utset in the dark while planning game logistics.
To Thompson and Nelson, the payoff was worth all the effort.
“This was so important to the team because we all know that Ali would do the same for us,” Thompson said. “The bond between the team is one that is of immense meaning to each and every one of us, and we do anything we can to make a positive impact in each other’s lives, both inside and outside of football. “
It’s not often you can compare football to a fairy tale, but for Utset, being surrounded by family and friends and helping the Cards battle back to win the game made the experience nothing short of magic.
“It was definitely one of the happiest moments of my life and one of the best things anybody has ever done for me,” he said. “It was a storybook ending to the season and for all of us seniors.”