Player Feature: Harvard Football's Alex Gedeon
By Carl Ehrlich '09-10
September 23rd was a big day for the Gedeon family.
Back in Hudson, Ohio, Ben Gedeon, a stand-out junior, led the Hudson High School squad to a 26-7 win over Cuyahoga Falls High School. In Annapolis, Maryland, Sam, a sophomore at the Naval Academy, was part of the Navy sprint football team's 56-0 win over Penn. In Cambridge, the eldest Gedeon brother, Alex, was captaining the Harvard Crimson.
His remaining family members scattered across the games (mom was in Cambridge, dad and younger sister, Gabrielle, were back in Hudson), the day was a testament to the Gedeon family's football prowess; a legacy built upon the precedent Alex set for his younger brothers.
But while Alex Gedeon's blood ties stop with his two younger brothers, there were 110 other football players who benefitted from his maturity, intensity and older-brother like influence that night. They were the same 110 players who rallied around him to seal a 24-7 win over Brown-- a win that puts them in the driver's seat in the Ivy League championship race.
While the dynamic isn't exactly the same, you can certainly see glimpses of the "older-brother" in Gedeon's captaining style. While he's quick with a smile and has one of the warmest dispositions you'll find in any locker room, he's also careful not to let his Crimson brothers get out of line.
Head coach Tim Murphy agrees that Gedeon is "not shy about holding his teammates to the same high standard he holds himself. Only someone who is universally respected can get that out of his fellow players."
And if Gedeon is anything, he's universally respected. Ask one of his teammates about Gedeon's leadership and they'll keep you on the phone for an hour. Write an e-mail to his roommates about Gedeon's team-first attitude and they'll write you back a book. It's a testament to his character that anyone and everyone in the Dillion Field House is ready to sing his praises.
Most of these praises, and the reason he's so widely respected, come as a product of his work ethic. Fellow Ohio-native Ben Graeff, one of Gedeon's many out-spoken supporters, spoke of his dedication at length.
"Alex is the definition of a blue-collar kid. Any time you see him—during a game, in the weight room, on the practice field, watching film—it's clear no one is working harder. Everyone on the team has bought into his leadership because they understand how much he's willing to sacrifice."
Gedeon also carries that work ethic across the river. Quietly and diligently, he's earned a 3.4 GPA in Human Development and Regenerative Biology. HDRB is one of the more demanding majors at Harvard, the time demands often forcing him to run back to the laboratory after a long day of practice. The schedule has been tough, but his hard work has been fruitful-- Gedeon is the most academically-decorated captain in recent memory.
That work ethic, combined with a remarkable humility, make Gedeon a natural leader. A leader who his peers and his brothers are inclined to follow. To be sure, Gedeon is capable of playing the "enforcer" role, but does most of his leading from the front.
Wide receiver Alex Sarkisian acknowledges that Gedeon asks a lot of the Crimson, but says the team has completely bought into his leadership.
"Gedeon never asks anyone to do anything he isn't willing to do himself," Sarkisian says. "He expects a lot from his teammates but we respond because it's obvious that he expects the same-- if not more—from himself. We're happy to follow his lead."
As they should be. Gedeon's lead has found the Crimson at the front of the pack in the hunt for an Ivy League championship. It's also, over the course of the last year, found them in some extremely rewarding undertakings.
One of the most over-looked parts of Gedeon's captaincy has been a dedication to community service. On top of all his other responsibilities, Gedeon has taken it upon himself to seek out opportunities for the Crimson to give back.
"I think we all recognize that so much of our success is a result of the time and effort other people invested in us," Gedeon says. "In the offseason, we try to make a point of investing our time in others."
As part of an on-going relationship with Edwards Middle School in Charlestown, Gedeon and his teammates spent four days a week working with the students. Also, working with organizations like the Red Cross, the National Bone Registry and AccesSportAmerica, an organization that helps underprivileged, special-need students, Gedeon has made admirable efforts to give back to the local community.
Considering his lab schedule, his responsibilities as captain and an ever-demanding spring football schedule, that's a lot of responsibility to bite off. And yet, much as he approaches his academic success, his popularity amongst the team and his on-the-field dominance, Gedeon is quick to laugh off any praise.
Discussing his play this season (coming of a junior year as second-team All-Ivy, Gedeon is having a career year), Gedeon is noticeably uncomfortable. No matter the question, his answers always seem to come back to others. He'll talk about how hard Jonathon Mason is working or praise what a leader running back Trevor Scales has become. Somehow, questions about his game-winning interception over Princeton turn into a list of the scholarship offers his brother, Ben, is receiving.
It's this selflessness that his brother, Sam, most tries to emulate in his own life.
"I've worked hard to emulate Alex's work ethic, but what really stands out about my brother is how he treats people. He's one of the kindest, most genuine people you'll ever meet. More than anything, he's always thinking about others before himself."
And if Gedeon was selfless before being elected captain, stepping into that role has only made him more so.
"Being captain changes your perspective, because you're not just thinking for yourself. It's never about 'did I have a good practice?' or 'how did I play today?'" Gedeon tells me. "It's 'how are we doing?' 'What can I do to make the team better?'"
"It's been a challenge I've really enjoyed."
By all measures, it's also been a challenge he's thrived in the face of. His team-first attitude, his compassion for others and his relentless pursuit of excellence all contributed to making him the model captain. And the perfect big-brother.
Then again, as Ben, Sam, or any of the Harvard Crimson will tell you, those lines are easily blurred.