Favorite athlete: Darren Sproles. I admire his versatility and fearlessness on the football field, and I try to mirror his play style into my game on the soccer pitch.
Favorite team: Ohio State football team. My parents, as well as my brother, went to Ohio State, so I grew up watching them every year and rooting for them.
Favorite memory competing in sports: My favorite memory is winning the state championship during my 2019 year. The feeling of taking part in a championship team is something I will never forget the rest of my life.
Funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: My funniest memory is getting haircuts with the team. Some haircuts turned out good and some did not. The ones that turned out bad were very funny.
Music on playlist: Pregame I listen to a lot of Meek Mill, Drake, Lil Uzi, and Pop Smoke. But my go-to pregame song is WDYW By Carnage.
Future plans: My future plans are to attend college and continue to play soccer, whether it is at a competitive school or a less competitive club team. Either way, I want to continue playing soccer.
Words to live by: “Live every day like it’s your last”
One goal before turning 30: A goal of mine is to find a career I am passionate about. Finding the right path has always been challenging for me, but I hope to find the correct path soon.
One thing people don’t know about me: I love to cook.
By Andrew Robinson
There are a lot of things Alex Stewart is not, but they also help make him what he is.
The North Penn senior, a co-captain of the boys' soccer team this fall, was never the biggest, the strongest, the swiftest, the most dynamic or most prolific player on the field from his first varsity experience as a sophomore to his final game last week. None of that mattered because as long as there was time on the clock, Stewart would not give up - on a play, on a teammate, on a game.
Many talented players have gone through the Knights program over the years, several earning major accolades and some going on to college, but they didn't do it the way Alex Stewart did it.
"I've been thinking about it a lot, every year since I've been on varsity, it was a very different year," Stewart said. "Sophomore year for our state final run, we were the top dog, and it was our job to hold the throne pretty much, the next year was different, it was a weird year (with the COVID-19 pandemic) and no one knew if we were going to be good or not.
"This year, no one knew if we would be any good and facing adversity like that and with what we accomplished going against that, I feel like it's something to be proud of."
Stewart's North Penn career came to an end in the first round of the PIAA tournament in a 4-1 defeat to Central Dauphin. He scored the lone goal of the match for the Knights, his third goal in as many games to close his career and something he wasn't really known for prior to those final weeks.
Instead, Stewart took whatever role he was given or the team needed him to play from a reserve to spell starters when he was a sophomore, a starter as a junior and finally team captain this past fall. Along the way, he also made sure to soak up whatever he could from the talented players around him, starting with his older brothers Jamie and Ryan, Carter Houlihan, Josh Jones, Dominik Gedek and so on through the rather long line of standout teammates.
"Being surrounded by the amount of good players that come through North Penn just makes you a better player," Stewart said. "It's the little things from everyone you play with that rubs off on you, whether it's your vision on the field, knowing where to be or little skill moves, you can pick up things from every single person, and it's all made me into the player I am today."
Some players, like Houlihan and Jones, are standouts from the second they walk into their first practice. Most start from the bottom and work their way up but even then, Stewart's path was unique all its own.
When Knights coach Chris DePeppe first met Stewart as a 12-year-old in ODP soccer, his first thoughts were how small Stewart was and how big his heart was. That first part changed eventually, but the second would remain a steadfast constant even as the youngest Stewart brother followed his older siblings to North Penn.
"The whole family is that way, they get the job done but they're not braggers about it," DePeppe said. "They are the ultimate sort of foxhole teammate, the guy you want next to you when things are against you."
It was his brothers - twins two years his elder - that sparked Stewart's interest in the sport. His is from an athletic family and the youngest Stewart said he's tried pretty much every sport there is at least once, and it wasn't until he was in eighth grade that he saw his future path.
That year, Jamie and Ryan got their call-up to varsity for the first time, and as Alex went and watched their games, he saw how much joy his siblings were taking from it. All three played club soccer, but putting on his school's colors and accomplishing something with the guys he grew up with always meant something more to Alex.
"High school soccer, it's so much different than anything else," Stewart said. "I think the environment of high school sports – (Jamie and Ryan) getting called up was the first time I'd experienced it. After seeing what the ceiling was for this program and seeing the amount of work they put in, that's when I realized that's what I wanted to do with it when I'm the face of the program.
"I knew I wanted it, it wasn't going to be a cakewalk and once I saw them and saw how happy they were, I was trying to accomplish the same thing."
Sharing a state title, even if Jamie was sick the day of the final and unable to make the trip, with his brothers will always be Alex's favorite memory playing soccer. They were bigger, stronger and faster, but he wouldn't ever give up and whether they knew it or not, Jamie and Ryan taught their little brother a lot of things he gave back to the program.
"All that little stuff you don't just see and it's not obvious, that's what I learned how to do from them," Stewart said. "During that whole playoff run, all three of us spent so much time together, and going through that whole process getting through districts and getting there with the two closest people in my life beside me was a really special thing to share that with them."
Talk to Stewart long enough and the word "we" starts to become a recurring trend. He didn't take sole credit for leading the team this fall, that was a shared role with fellow captains Ryan Mindick and Hunter Stites. He didn't take credit for the clutch goals he scored - it was a team effort to win those games.
It was a perfect pair of player and role, as Stewart gravitated to his position as a captain. He didn't always say much, but DePeppe was steadfast in his belief that next year, players will ask themselves what Stewart would have done when they face a moment of trepidation on the field.
"If I could pick someone and say 'This is a North Penn player,' it would be Alex," DePeppe said. "Even back to our 2019 year, we had a lot of ability and a lot of studs on that team and he was a small sophomore, but in our championship game in Hershey, we didn't have the energy and needed someone to go in the midfield and change the tide a little bit.
"Sure enough, we put him in and he only played probably 15 minutes, but he changed that game."
Stewart is most proud of how much this year's team grew from the start of the season to where it ended. He felt the Knights lacked cohesion early on, which was fair to expect given the players they had lost - including an all-state selection in Jones - but the players still in the program had a standard to live up to.
After a 3-0 loss to La Salle, Stewart felt things turned for the better. The group, which was already close, became even tighter, and each player put a little more into everything they did, from practice to games and it led to the Knights capturing another SOL title.
In the playoffs, they came all the way back from a quarterfinal loss to secure the district's fifth and final state playoff spot with Stewart scoring a key goal in the playback final against rival Pennridge.
"He kept everybody honest," DePeppe said. "He didn't have to say much but when he did, people listened. More than anything, it was me being able to say to guys on the bench 'play like he does.'"
DePeppe, who is also the youngest of three brothers, could relate to Alex's fight to keep up with Jamie and Ryan and still marvels at the amount of work the youngest Stewart must have put in behind the scenes in his four years with the Knights.
At the team's first preseason practice this year, DePeppe half-jokingly asked the athletic department at North Penn if they could get one of those biometric sensors college and professional teams use to monitor players' output. There was just something different in the way Stewart had come back for his senior year that stood out, as if he had unlocked the last barriers holding him back.
"Even though I was a captain and supposed to be a leader and tell people what to do, I think it's important to let people do their own thing," Stewart said. "Each person brings something different and if you're too strict, there's no room to grow. Letting each person build off their strengths and have fun but also keeping everyone focused and there for each other were my main priorities."
Off the field, Stewart is just as invested. A National Honor Society member, the senior said it takes a lot of time with the volunteer hours needed but he still finds time to serve as a vice president of North Penn's Ski and Board Club, a role that has him helping to plan two ski trips this coming winter.
The serious facade he has between the lines is also a good mask. Stewart has a wit about him and according to his coach, a knack for having the right thing to say before starting a big game.
"Alex never took a day off, but the day after he'd scored a late goal, he said he was going to take it a little easier at a practice, so I made a point to joke with him, 'Oh, you're so soft,'" DePeppe said. "He's the first one on the bus that will get the guys loose and laughing with something he says. He's all business on the field, but he's a quiet leader who knows how to use his sense of humor and the guys just love him."
Stewart's future, as he put it, is "a bit of a mystery" right now. He hasn't ruled out playing soccer in college and has a few more club tournaments left to play. Wherever Stewart ends up or whatever path he takes, DePeppe has no doubts he will be extremely successful at it.
Where he'll certainly be missed is when the Knights gather for preseason next year, and for the first time in years, there are no Stewarts on the roster. Chances are, however, they'll have plenty of Stewarts in spirit on the field reflected in the way they compete.
"I just hope to be remembered as a good leader and someone who never gave up," Stewart said. "What I've been seen as, is someone who plays bigger than he is and isn't afraid. I feel like, disregarding skill, my mentality is what I want to be remembered by."