Before Alec Lemon ever put on an Arundel football jersey for the first time, Head Coach Chuck Markiewicz knew he had found the Wildcats’ next star athlete. The Colorado native who moved to Crofton in elementary school made an immediate impression on the varsity coaching staff even before he was out of junior high.
“We’ve known Alec was going to be something special since the first day he walked in here,” recalled Markiewicz. “He used to come from the middle school when he was in eighth grade. When they’d get out of school we would be lifting, he would come up late and he would work out with us as an eighth grader.”
Over the next four years, Markiewicz’s premonitions would prove accurate as the wide receiver and safety shredded state records and county opponents throughout his career and helped the Wildcats earn three county titles, two region titles and a state-title game appearance. Along the way, Lemon broke the state record for receiving yards (1,616), tied state records for receptions (103) and touchdowns (23) in a season, and was named a second-team All-American his senior year.
As the accolades piled up, the inevitable stream of recruiting calls flooded in, including a visit from then-Syracuse Head Coach Doug Marrone, who left the Orange to become head coach of the Buffalo Bills last month. During the visit, Markiewicz let the coach in on another premonition he was having.
“I told Doug Marrone when he came here to recruit him, ‘Someday that guy’s going to be the face of your program.’ They’ve got billboards in Syracuse with football players on them. I said, ‘He’s going to be the guy,’” Markiewicz recalled.
Once again, Lemon spent the next four years proving Markiewicz right, and once again, he terrorized both the record book and opposing defensive backs along the way.
Take a look at the all-time receptions leaders at Syracuse – you may recognize some names: Two of the NFL’s greatest receivers of all time, Art Monk and Marvin Harrison, former Pro Bowler Rob Moore, current Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Williams, Super Bowl-hero David Tyree. But at the top of that list is Alec Lemon, with 201 career receptions, 62 more than anyone else to ever wear an Orange jersey. Lemon also set the school’s single-season receptions record this year and finished behind only Harrison for the most receiving yards in school history.
Suffice to say, the 187th-ranked wide receiver in the recruiting class of 2009 shattered outsiders’ expectations, a habit that was first imparted upon him by the coaching staff at Arundel.
“One thing I learned on and off the field [from the coaches] is to never let someone else determine what I can and can’t do,” Lemon said. “Coach Mark[iewicz] helped us get every last bit of ability we had and made sure we unleashed it on Friday nights and never backed down from any opponent.”
Lemon’s success for the Orange mirrored that of the entire Syracuse program, which had endured a 10-37 stretch over the previous four years and had not won a bowl game in over a decade. Marrone turned the program around and imparted a familiar message upon Lemon and his teammates along the way.
“Just like in high school, we were always told to never sell yourself short. People were saying we weren’t that good, saying Syracuse wasn’t ever going to be in a bowl game, and in my time there we won two bowl games,” Lemon said. “We always had the goal to play in a bowl game and to win the Big East, and this year we did both of them.”
Today, Lemon’s focus has locked on the NFL draft. He spent two months training in Arizona alongside other NFL hopefuls and working out six days a week with a team of coaches to prepare for last month’s NFL combine. The average day consisted of warm-ups, core workouts and 90 minutes of speed training in the morning, then strength training and one-on-one work with a position coach after lunch.
“They’re long days but it’s definitely worth it knowing what you’re trying to accomplish so I can’t complain too much,” Lemon said. “My all-time dream is to be drafted, to hear my name on the TV. That’s been my dream my whole life.”
Lemon ran a 4.59-second 40-yard dash at the combine in late February, and improved his vertical leap to 37” at Syracuse’s Pro Day on March 7, and the former Wildcat is currently projected as a late round pick in April’s draft.