Alex Malzone of Birmingham Brother Rice led the Warriors to the state championship by going 8-of-11 for 168 yards passing with two touchdowns in the Division 2 title game against Muskegon Nov. 23. )
If you haven't yet heard the name Alex Malzone, sit tight because it's one that will likely to be mentioned a lot over the next few years. In a just a few weeks' time the Birmingham Brother Rice sophomore quarterback has risen from the ranks of the unknown to now being regarded as one of the top prospects in the state of Michigan's 2015 recruiting class.
It's not often that one can gain such acclaim while playing a backup role, but that is exactly Malzone did. The 6-3, 190-pound signal caller was front and center on the biggest of stages recently, helping pilot the Warriors to a state title by completing 8 of 11 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns.
"(The championship game) was just thrilling," said Malzone. "I mean, 20,000 people there — it was crazy. We played a good Muskegon team and it was big play after big play. Our defense, offense — everyone stepped up and we ended up with a 'W.'"
Though clearly a team victory, Malzone's unexpected heroics have commanded the majority of the reverence in the game's aftermath. His big arm added a passing dimension that the opposition proved unable to slow down. None of it would have been possible, though, without the veteran leadership and team-first attitude exhibited by senior starter Cheyne Lacanaria.
"I was the quarterback on JV last year and then got moved up for the playoffs," Malzone told Scout.com. "This year, Cheyne was always there to help me. Halfway through the regular season is when I started to get the offense down. Whenever I had a question, he was there. He wouldn't push me to the side. He would help with the defenses and which receivers he looks for, and it helped me a lot."
Knowing the offense is one thing. Having the necessary poise, despite youth and inexperience, to go out and execute it is quite another. The Brother Rice coaching staff clearly sensed early on that they had a gunslinger with that type of potential.
"I was told in the offseason that they were going to give me a chance, and maybe they might try to switch off (quarterbacks)," he recalled. "I didn't play really much during the regular season. I just got in there when we were up by a lot. But in the playoffs in the second round against Oxford I went in there in the first half for a couple plays and threw a couple deep balls. Then second half, the coaches told the whole team that we were going to switch off series, and that's how it was the rest of the season."
Malzone ended the year having completed 27 of 35 passes for 474 yards and seven TD without a single interception. That kind of success is his opening varsity campaign sets the bar for expectations extremely high in his remaining two seasons. To his credit, the talented youngster is embracing the challenge.
"Next year we have all of our running backs coming back, receivers coming back, and a lot of the guys coming back, and we're going to be pretty solid again," he stated. "I'm hoping for that threepeat."
Honing his skills even further will be a key element in propelling Brother Rice to yet another championship. Malzone began his quest to do just that last weekend when he competed in the Adidas Maximum Exposure Combine at the Pontiac Silverdome and earned the MVP award at his position for his efforts.
"I just love reading defense and finding the open guy," Malzone said afterward. "It's the best thing I can do. Not much of a runner. If I have to, I can make one or two guys miss, but I'm just looking for that open guy, and hit him."
Further improvement of his readiness will be aided by stops and various other camps and combines in the coming weeks and months.
"Last summer I went to the Michigan camp," Malzone stated. "It was good. It was football all day. It was tough, but it was a good camp. (There were) a lot of good guys there (and) a lot of coaches there. This summer I'm looking to go to the Michigan camp, then maybe Michigan State or some other camps around the Midwest."
On the recruiting front Malzone's contact with schools is currently in its infancy, but that is destined to change quite rapidly. Word of his sudden success and obvious talent has already started making the rounds. That said, the two in-state schools have the advantage of already knowing about him. One in particular is uniquely positioned to build a strong rapport, but Malzone insists his familiarity with the home schools won't prevent him from looking around.
"I haven't really gotten any (recruiting) letters yet,' he said. "The only thing I got was Coach Dantonio came to Rice one day and gave our offensive coordinator a questionnaire for me to fill out. That's really it (from Michigan State)."
"I've been going to Michigan games ever since I was little. My dad still has season tickets. I've been to all the big games -- Michigan State in 2004 with Braylon (Edwards), last year under the lights with Notre Dame. I've been to all the good ones. We're fans."
"I would like to eventually hear from some others. Of course I like all the SEC schools — all the powerhouses. Florida, LSU, Alabama, but who knows what will happen with that."
Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine.com and co-host of the "Michigan Insider" morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA.