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After he'd convinced the security guard standing outside the BYU locker room that his last name meant something, the 8-year-old boy would beg players for their game gloves or dirty socks. When a young Alex Kuresa wasn't doing that, he'd hound Cougar quarterback John Beck for tips.
Kuresa was always going to be a quarterback. It was only a matter of when and where. He hoped it would be wearing Cougar blue and white. Following a record-setting career at Mountain Crest, it was obvious he possessed the tools, passing for 10,951 yards and 101 touchdowns. But a good quarterback also must change the play when he gets a look he isn't fond of.
That's what the 6-foot signal-caller from the small Logan outpost of Millville did in Jan. 2014. Kuresa blazed his own trail, leaving behind his dream of standing behind center in Provo, only to do so in Ephraim at Snow College.
Risky? Sure, but it paid off.
"Some guys will back down," said Snow coach Britt Maughan, "but he never does."
The proof lies in where Kuresa ended up, and what he's done since.
Now, the kid from Cache Valley is the starting quarterback in a city that takes pride in the peculiar, and he's doing it with style. Kuresa has led the Big Sky Conference's Portland State Vikings to a 7-2 start (4-2 in league play) while throwing for over 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns and running for seven TDs.
The Vikings play host to conference-leading Southern Utah Saturday in game that has title implications for both teams.
Like a portion of 20-somethings residing in downtown Portland, Kuresa sports an emerging beard with hair sprouting from the back of his matte black helmet. Despite looking the part, Kuresa is rolls with his own alternative lifestyle in a community dedicated to keeping Portland weird. In this case, married with a kid.
Kuresa wakes up every day at 6 a.m., tiptoeing around the house as his infant daughter, Kalisi Mei, sleeps soundly. The drive from his apartment in suburban Beaverton to the campus at Portland State University is about 15 minutes.
There are only two other players on Portland State who are married, Kuresa said. At times, it makes him yearn for the days at BYU, where wife Madison and Kalisi Mei could be part of the designated wives' club.
That's not possible in Portland. But something else is. The Vikings gave one of Utah's most-storied prep products a shot at his spot when no one else would.
"Every time I talk to him, I can hear him grinning through the phone," said older brother Jake, a former four-year starter on the BYU offensive line.
Odds stacked against him
The youngest of the three Kuresa children, Alex paled in comparison to older brother Jake and even older sister Jaicee, who played volleyball at Utah Valley. Jake recalls starting as a freshman at Mountain Crest as a 6-foot-4, 300-pound lineman. And Alex? A 5-foot-7, 130-pound rail.
"On the genetics side, there's not a lot that's similar about us," Jake said.
But when BYU offered him a scholarship, he followed in his big brother's footsteps.
After redshirting in 2011, Kuresa moved to wide receiver in 2012. He wanted to play. And he did, appearing in 10 games where he caught four passes for 51 yards. Following that season, he left on an LDS mission to American Samoa. He returned early in Dec. 2013, and wanted one last shot at quarterback.
It wouldn't come. At least not in Provo. To move back behind center, Kuresa called an audible, moving to central Utah and backtracking through the junior college ranks.
"I was waiting to get an opportunity for four years," he said. "Waiting to prove myself. That's what I got."
Kuresa's 2014 season with the Badgers turned him into one of two Junior College All-American quarterbacks. He threw for 2,374 yards, 25 touchdowns and ran for another eight. scores
Steve Cooper called last November to inquire about two of Snow's tight ends. They had already committed elsewhere. Instead, he was told about Kuresa and got hold of the quarterback's tape. Cooper, heading into his first season as Portland State's offensive coordinator was shocked.
The highlight package was 120 minutes long.
"We ask the quarterback to run the football at times, and he showed that he was more than adequate in that department," Cooper said. "He even drew comparisons to 'The Johnny Manziel of the junior college ranks,' when we watched him. We saw he could fit right into what we're doing."
A perfect match
Jake Kuresa sees parallels between his kid brother and the Portland State program. Both are used to lengthy line of skeptics. The last time the Vikings matched their 2015 win total was 2011.
"They haven't been good before," Jake Kuresa said. "People doubt them. They travel to their games on a bus."
As for Alex?
"Nothing has been handed to him," he added.
Kuresa could be a skill-position player at a national powerhouse this year, if he wanted. Last fall, LSU, Auburn and Michigan expressed interest. Gary Andersen and Oregon State did, too.
But Kuresa couldn't envision continuing football without having the ball and the game in his hands.
Cooper has noticed the instant affect Kuresa's had on the program.
"Any time you've got a guy who has been around the block [and] has experience, he gets the game," Cooper said. "He understands those little intricate details to what makes sure the locker room works."
On Sept. 5, weather rolled into Pullman, Wash., along with the Portland State bus. The Vikings, 32-point underdogs to Mike Leach's Washington State Cougars, were paid a reported $525,000 just for showing up.
Former Logan High quarterback Luke Falk and the Cougars jumped out to a 10-0 lead. Less than 11 minutes into the third quarter, Portland State tied it up. Less than two minutes into the fourth, the Vikings took the lead. Kuresa didn't need to throw much. He totaled just 61 yards through the air. The ground game was chugging and chewed up the Cougars for 233 yards, including Kuresa's 92 yards on 16 carries while methodically killing the clock.
In Kuresa's first game as a Viking, Portland State beat a Pac-12 program for the first time ever. Amid the postgame hysteria, he spotted Madison and sprinted after her. He approached his wife in the empty section of the bleachers and the two embraced alone, in another strange place.
"That was the payoff moment for me and my wife," said Kuresa,.
That would be Alex Kuresa, the quarterback.
Alex Kuresa at a glance
• Utah native is spearheading 7-2 Vikings in his first year as Portland State's starting QB
• During his four-year career at Mountain Crest, Kuresa set several Utah high school football records for total yards (12,917), passing yards (10,591), touchdown passes (101) and completions (751)
• Committed to BYU, where he redshirted in 2011 and played WR in 2012
» Transferred to Snow College in Jan. 2014 where he was named a NCJAA All-American after passing for 2,374 yards, 25 touchdowns and running for eight more
» Transferred to Portland State this February and earned the starting QB job this fall.
» Kuresa has thrown for 1,532 yards and 12 touchdowns while running for seven more this year
Southern Utah at Portland State
Saturday, 3:05 p.m. MST
TV • None