Here’s how sacrifice, an Adam Sandler movie and a knack for picking things up quickly led Alex Hale to Stillwater.
STILLWATER — When Alex Hale moved to San Diego after high school to live with his brother and train as a kicker, it wasn’t to fulfill a lifelong goal of playing American football.
That would have required him to care about American football as a kid.
Growing up in New South Wales, Australia, the extent of the Hale brothers’ American football knowledge came largely via a 2005 Adam Sandler movie.
“I think maybe we would have known Tom Brady,” said Hale’s brother, Andre. “The only time we’ve probably ever watched American football was watching ‘The Longest Yard’. ‘The Blind Side’ as well, was the second exposure to it. So yeah, it was really just kind of a folk story in a way, just a Hollywood kind of thing.”
Alex Hale, now a senior kicker at Oklahoma State, played almost everything but football growing up. He will likely play in his final collegiate game when OSU plays Texas A&M at 8 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN) in the Texas Bowl.
He was an accomplished tennis player growing up and had aspirations of playing professional soccer. At 14, he fixated on competitive wakeskating.
Alex got hooked on watersports when a wakeskating park opened by his house. It was a sectioned-off body of water with rails and floating ramps that he could do tricks on. All Alex needed was a jet ski for propulsion, and a little tape of snowboarder Shaun White and skateboarder Tony Hawk for inspiration.
“It’s like skateboarding tricks,” Hale said. “We’ll do the flat skateboarding tricks you’ll do, but also the jumps and the rails.”
Hale’s pursuit of wakeskating seems unusual. He is soft-spoken and reserved with an ability to control his adrenaline. He is No. 3 in the nation with 26 made field goals.
“The way Alex is day-in and day-out, game-in and game-out so calm, cool and collected is pretty cool,” senior quarterback Alan Bowman said.
Hale mastered wakeskating quickly, eventually becoming the Junior (Under 19) Wakeskate World Champion.
“It seemed like, within a year he went from learning it, to competing and then, you know, the year after that he was going to the world championships for it,” Andre said.
A tough conversation changed everything. Hale said he was all in on wakeskating but brainstormed options with his parents to commit to a sport that could provide an education. They came up with football place-kicking.
“It was definitely hard (to give wakeskating up),” Alex said. “It was a big hobby of mine. I grew up in the water surfing and everything like that.”
Alex had done a little rugby kicking with his father Glenn, who was an accomplished rugby player. Alex moved in with Andre, who attended San Diego State, and trained with former NFL kicker John Carney for two months. Alex said Carney took him under his wing.
Andre knew his brother was talented at picking up new sports quickly. When Alex would come home and mention that he would compete with— and sometimes beat — other collegiate and professional kickers who came to train with Carney, Andre realized Alex could be good.
Alex burst onto the scene as a redshirt sophomore in 2020, making 13 of his 14 field goal attempts and becoming a Lou Groza Award Semifinalist. He tore the ACL in his plant leg while warming up for Bedlam. That was the beginning of the hardships. Kicker Tanner Brown transferred in the next season and claimed the starting role for two seasons.
Alex said he got better from losing his job and that he never considered transferring.
“I think out of everyone in the family he’d probably be the only one that will be able to kind of persevere through that whole situation,” Andre said.
Alex bounced back this season, making 26 of 32 field goal attempts. He hit five in OSU’s win against Kansas State. He is not sure what he’ll do after this season. He might give the NFL a shot. He misses the beach and surfing, and might move back to San Diego with Andre. Regardless, he has been happy with his decision to try place-kicking
“It’s a great place to be a specialist here,” Alex said. “Coach (Mike) Gundy treats us really well. He understands what we do as specialists and respects the work we put in. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”