Tanney showcases trick shot ability
Internet buzz from video doesn’t phase record-setting QB
Alex Tanney stands on a deck outside the school library on a winter afternoon and throws a football over the jumbo scoreboard at Monmouth (Ill.) College’s April Zorn Memorial Stadium. The ball clears the scoreboard without fail and bounces right off the crossbar and onto the field.
In another trick, Tanney watches as his friend speeds down a country road in a pick-up truck and unleashes a throw that lands in the hands of another friend sitting in the back end. He even heads over to the Huff Recreation Center on campus to show off his skills by zipping footballs into basketball hoops.
His creative use of time was captured on video and less than a day after being put on YouTube, it gained national attention, even getting air time on ESPN’s Sports Nation.
Tanney has done countless interviews with various media outlets about the video and said he never intended for it to be a such a huge hit.
In fact, it's garnered nearly one million views since its debut. Oh, the power of the Internet.
"We were just goofing around one day and my friends thought it would be fun to record me doing some trick with the football," Tanney said. "I never thought it would take off the way it did. But it was a cool experience and it brought some extra attention to (NCAA) Division III football."
Tanney said he had some of the tricks in mind before he made the video.
"Some of them were things I had done in the offseason. Most of them were just some creative ideas my buddies and I thought of," Tanney said.
The extra attention he received because of the video didn't lead to added fame on campus.
"Our campus is pretty small," Tanney said. "I already know mostly everyone."
Tanney probably shouldn’t need a video to thrust him into the national spotlight. The star signal-caller for the Fighting Scots is one of the best small college quarterbacks in the country. He had thrown for more than 10,000 yards and more 100 touchdowns entering the season. He is also extremely accurate, having completed nearly 70 percent of his passes while throwing only 20 interceptions before 2011.
"It takes a lot accuracy to make those [trick] throws, and I think being able to do them goes with what I’ve been able to do on the field," Tanney said. "I’m a pretty accurate quarterback."
It’s tough to argue with him.
But a year ago, Tanney and his dazzling football skills were on the shelf. In the second game of the season, the Midwest Conference opener against Grinnell, Tanney was hit while throwing the ball and ended up tearing his AC Joint. It’s the same injury former Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford suffered during his collegiate career.
"The guy that tackled me landed right on my shoulder when I hit the ground," Tanney said. "It’s the first major injury I’ve ever dealt with. The rehab went well and I feel like I’m back at full strength. I actually feel like I’m stronger than I was before the injury. Maybe the injury was a blessing in disguise."
It’s a scary thought if Tanney really is stronger than ever. He has already set stat sheets on fire. As a freshman in 2007, he ripped apart opposing defenses for 2,678 yards and 24 TDs. A year later, Tanney racked up 3,624 yards and 50 TD passes.
In 2009, the punishing air attack continued.
Tanney threw for 3,856 yards and 44 scoring strikes as he led the Fighting Scots to their second consecutive league championship and was named the MWC Player of the Year for the second consecutive year. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Tanney was also received the Melberger Trophy, which is given to the top player in Divisoin III.
"I wasn’t sure what to expect when I came to school," Tanney said. "I thought I had a chance to be good, but I never imagined I would have as much success as I’ve had so far."
Part of his success is a credit to his dad, who was his football coach at Lexington High School in Illinois.
"My dad taught me a lot as a kid, especially about the fundamentals of the game," Tanney said. "As I got older, I could focus more on other aspects of football and it’s helped me become the player I am today."
But don’t think for a moment that Tanney is going to be complacent. He has spent the summer sharpening his skills and is poised to put an exclamation point on his remarkable career.
The DIII record for most passing yards in a career (13,606) and the career TDs record (149) are within sight. He entered his final year at Monmouth with 10,382 yards and 119 TDs.
"He's got a lot of confidence in his ability and that makes him fun to coach," Monmouth head coach Steve Bell said. "He puts in the work to be successful, whether it's extra reps on the field, more time studying film or going the extra distance in the weight room. He knows what it takes to reach a high level and he's willing to put the extra work in."
Monmouth struggled at times last season without Tanney in the lineup, finishing 6-4 overall and 6-3 in the MWC. In Tanney’s first three full seasons, the Fighting Scots have gone 28-5 overall and 18-2 in league play.
"I’ve worked on being the best leader possible on the field and off of it," Tanney said. "I’ve also tried to improve my footwork. Practice has been very intense and the expectations are high. We haven’t lost a lot of games here and we want to win a conference title and go to the playoffs. We’re looking forward to a great season."
As for the possibility of making another trick video, the idea is on hold, perhaps forever.
"I get a lot of people who ask me if I'm going to do a sequel," Tanney said. "It's probably unlikely."
But if he did make another video, is there a trick he would love to try?
"The finale we shot for the History Channel's 'Superhuman' show was probably my favorite," Tanney said. "But I guess everyone will have to wait to see it."
Video courtesy of the Monmouth (Ill.) athletic department.