By the window of Capogiro, there’s a guy with light hair looking out at the sidewalk, no coffee in hand. With his simple gray t–shirt and athletic shorts, there's nothing too remarkable about his appearance—no flashing signs advertising “Quarterback!!!”, no gear adorned with number tens and no football in hand. But as soon as he gets up from his table and steadily crosses to the counter, the details start to show.
Alek Torgersen stands at 6 feet and 3 inches tall, weighs in at 230 pounds and is Penn’s all–time leader in passing touchdowns, completion percentage and total offense. Though you might be able to guess the first two statistics just by looking at him, you might never know the last facts unless you pressed them out of him for hours. It is true that Alek will graduate as one of the most decorated football players to pass through the Ivy League. It is true that he has worked hard enough to earn himself the attention that could potentially get him drafted to the NFL. It is true that he's a gifted athlete and puts in hours upon hours of training all year to achieve that proficiency. But, above all else, what is true about Alek Torgersen is that he is deeply humble, and one of the most well–rounded and appreciative members of the Penn community.
“[Penn is] kind of like that, ‘We’re all just gonna work really hard’ kind of school,” Alek says of the university. “I think that fit me, as opposed to those other schools where it’s kind of more elitist and stuff like that. Penn’s very down to earth and people here really understand each other…Everyone’s kind of here for the same purpose, and I think that’s something that drew me to the school.”
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Alek is no exception to the down to earth, hard–worker mentality that he admires. A typical day for Alek could include a drive to New Jersey, two intensive two–hour training sessions, a drive to get back right in time for class and hours of studying film. For the past few months, he’s been doing this for four days a week, almost every week.
"It’s kind of stressful,” he finally admits, only after finishing an exhaustive list of time commitments. “I have to meet with a quarterback coach as well. So I have a strength and conditioning coach, and then I have a quarterback coach, and we throw. I throw with receivers and work on that aspect, and the mental aspect of football too.”
This dedication didn’t just suddenly ignite when Alek got attention for his college performance. Since the fourth grade, he’s had a private quarterback coach, private trainers and played for several teams.
“My mom taught me how to throw…because my dad can’t throw a ball to save his life," he says.
“My entire life, I’ve played quarterback. Quarterback is a great position too. You get to touch the ball on every play. You’re the guy that people look to in times of desperation, kind of that calm, steady hand that guides the team, and that’s kind of how I feel I am as a person…this position fit my personality,” Alek says.
He knows himself well. Very few things rattle Alek Torgersen. When a cappuccino spills across his table, he doesn't flinch. His facial expression doesn't change. He doesn't clumsily push his chair away from the table to protect his clothes from the spillage or make any audible reactionary noise. Instead, he sits still in his seat and helps blot up the liquid with napkins. “Don’t worry,” he repeated, with a smile the whole time. “I don’t really get too high or too low,” he noted later. “I’m kind of always in the middle.”
Though Alek must know that most people on campus are dying to know about the NFL draft process, he doesn’t bring it up until he's explicitly asked.
“It’s kind of insane because not a lot of people from Penn really have this opportunity.” In fact, only six people have. Ever.
Earlier this year, Alek traveled down to Florida to play in the East–West shrine game (which can be classified as a collegiate All–Star game), and had his pro day in early March. Now, he’s just waiting to hear back from teams. Depending on who he hears back from, he’ll begin visiting different teams in their different locations. His schedule is not getting any lighter any time soon. He doesn’t seem to mind.
“Coming in I didn’t think this was gonna be a thing. When I was gonna be graduating my senior year I was just gonna…get a job and go into the workforce right after. But I was fortunate enough to, you know, perform here, and if you’re good enough, they’ll find you. These past three or four months have just been a whirlwind for me.”
Alek admits that although he wasn’t necessarily surprised by the attention, he wasn’t expecting it when he began his college career. “It’s something that you dream about as a kid, but you really know that there’s a very slim chance that it’ll happen…I just enjoy every minute of it. I’m all about the journey. So, I’m just having fun right now. If it works out, it’s meant to be.”
Alek says he didn’t get here all alone, though. He knows football is an intricate process that wouldn’t be possible without those behind the scenes. “I’ve had great teammates…I was fortunate enough to play four years with a great coaching staff and like a great surrounding cast…They got me ready for games, coaches and all them got me prepared for every situation, so that kind of led into it.”
And not all of these things are visible to the public eye. Alek constantly maintains a healthy, hydrated diet, hence his lack of coffee. He has a family of 110 people in the football program who keep him on his toes and who would fight anyone for him, as he would for them. “It’s the stuff that people don’t see that makes it so that what you do see on Saturday [games] is successful. You know, those numbers, they don’t mean anything to me. I’d rather have those bonds than do anything with the ball.”
In addition to the time spent pursuing his football career, he’s dedicated to his studies as a Politics, Philosophy and Economics major in the College. Alek still somehow maintains balance in his life.
“It’s something that I think my parents instilled in me when I was younger,” he shares, adding, “Thanks, mom,” with a laugh. “You gotta focus. Grades come first, sports come second. That’s something that I’ve held close to my heart for a while.”
So the decision to come to a school like Penn wasn’t solely about football. It was about much more. “Coming here, I got to come to a school where I could push myself academically and athletically, and that was my goal coming out of high school. It was to go somewhere where I could be the best both on the field and off the field.”
Although he is a clear leader, both in online statistics and in real–life actions, he is shy to admit it. He shifts in the too–small cafe chair.
“I hate…I’ve always had to answer that question,” he laughs and shakes his head. “I like to consider myself a leader. I’m not like, the most vocal person, but I always try to do the right thing, and kind of lead by example. I was always…doing my job better than other people were doing theirs, so that’s how I’d consider myself a leader.”
Of this university, he can’t say enough. “I’m always gonna hold Penn close to my heart. Whenever I try to do something, I’m trying to not just make my family and myself proud but I’m trying to make this program proud, and help them out in the future.”
“I go out there, and every time I represent Penn. When you walk on the field, even if no one is watching, you’re still representing Penn. Penn is something that I’m gonna have pride in for my whole life.”
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