Signing Day at South Forsyth, LambertVideo: Brian Paglia Editing: Jim Dean
In just a few months, Alex Roe will be on to the next challenge. He’ll be in Mountain View, Calif., at the corporate headquarters of Google for an 11-week summer internship. He’s a senior and computer science major at Georgia Tech. He wants to start his own technology venture one day. There’s nowhere else to go but west for those with such ambitions.
It will be perhaps the best environment to put to the test all the lessons of every challenge he’s encountered along the way.
But today, when Roe and the Georgia Tech men’s lacrosse team face Virginia Tech in the first round of the South Eastern Lacrosse Conference playoffs at South Forsyth at 8 p.m., he returns to the site of the first challenge, the one that propelled him on an unfamiliar but rewarding path.
"I’m definitely looking forward to it," Roe said about playing at his alma mater. "It’s cool to be able to finish up my career where I started it."
Lacrosse wasn’t the athletic career Roe had in mind when he entered South in 2006. He was a baseball player, reared on the travel teams of Sharon Springs and ready to make the varsity team.
So it was while playing basketball during P.E. class just a few weeks before baseball tryouts where everything changed. Roe fell down on his hand and broke his wrist. He thought about going through baseball conditioning but knew his wrist wouldn’t heal in time to grip a ball or bat.
For the first time in his life, Roe faced the possibility of going a full season without playing being in a dugout.
"I really wanted to be involved in a sport," he said.
The previous summer he went to a lacrosse camp for beginners.
"It was just an up-and-coming sport," Roe said. "I hadn’t heard a lot about it. It seemed kind of interesting. I thought I’d go … to see what it’s all about."
And so with a broken wrist and time to kill, Roe tried out for South’s lacrosse team hoping to make junior varsity.
"I fell in love with the sport," Roe said. "I realized how much fun it was and thought my experiences and skills were well-suited to it. I just had a blast playing it."
Roe had time to make up. Playing with and against other more seasoned lacrosse players, Roe threw himself into mastering the game. He spent hours throwing against walls. He went to more advanced camps during the summer. He joined an elite travel team that played showcase tournaments in Maryland and New Jersey.
"I really kind of embraced working hard and getting better since I kind of missed out on it a lot," Roe said. "I had a lot of fun with it."
Roe developed enough to be named all-county his junior and senior seasons, but when it came time to go off to Georgia Tech he gave up lacrosse. It was his dream school, the one his father and grandfather attended, and Roe wanted to focus on academics.
Problem was he made friends with several players on the Yellow Jackets team. They raved about the coach, the experience, and Roe couldn’t help it – he played fall ball with the team and got hooked again.
"I wish I’d have played freshman year," Roe said.
Roe made up for lost time, scoring 12 goals while starting every game his sophomore year. His junior season was even better – 21 goals, seven assists and Georgia Tech finally beat Georgia in the regular season and advanced to the SELC championship.
Here comes the next challenge: Just weeks before his senior season, Roe broke his thumb while skiing with friends at Sugar Mountain in North Carolina. He missed six weeks. When Roe returned the team’s offense had changed, and so had his role. Once a focal point of the offense’s attack, Roe moved to midfielder. He enters the playoffs with just four goals in 12 games.
"It’s been an adjustment," Roe said, "but I’m just trying to help the team anyway I can. That’s where they needed me, so I’m enjoying getting to learn that role."
Really, it wasn’t unlike when Roe ran an internship program at CodeGuard, a local start-up company in Atlanta, or when he did a co-op at Manhattan Associates and developed a project that won a company-wide award at its innovation fair.
Sometimes adversity has snuck up on Roe (or crashed down on him at basketball courts and ski slopes). But other times Roe has sought it out.
"I don’t like the easy way out," Roe said. "I like being thrown into a tough situation and seeing what I can do. It’s something I’ve always thrived in."
A little more adversity waits in Virginia Tech, a formidable opponent ranked in the top 25 in the country, but Roe and the Yellow Jackets are ready.
"The path I took with lacrosse opened up a lot of doors," Roe said. "Now I’m really grateful for the opportunity that I had at South to play lacrosse."