Alex McLaughlin following family’s athletic path - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Alex McLaughlin following family’s athletic path

August 16th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Alex McLaughlin following family’s athletic path
Sports and Recreation

By Zach Alvira
Sports Editor

Competing at a high level in athletics has always been a part of Alex McLaughlin’s destiny.

His mother, Ann, was a track athlete in college while his dad, Matt, played baseball. His oldest brother, J.D., made a name for himself at Hamilton playing baseball and is now in the Detroit Tigers farm system. His other older brother, Trenton, is currently a sophomore at Northern Arizona University playing basketball.

Both J.D. and Trenton told their younger brother growing up that he would have to follow in their path as athletes. While McLaughlin said there was pressure initially, it quickly became his goal, too.

Now as he enters his senior season as an outside linebacker at Hamilton, he’s on the right path to follow in the footsteps of his family members before him as a Division I college athlete.

“In my younger days my brothers – because they were older than me – they were already committed to their schools and knew what they were doing, there was some pressure for me to go (Division I),” McLaughlin said. “I wouldn’t say there’s pressure anymore. I’m getting past it now.”

McLaughlin grew up playing several sports, but football and baseball stuck. He continued to play both through his sophomore year at Hamilton. But during his junior year, he made the difficult decision to give up baseball and focus on track in the spring.

Part of that decision was influenced by his sophomore season, when he was brought up to the varsity level. Hamilton head coach Mike Zdebski, along with defensive coordinator Tim Dougherty, told McLaughlin that he had the ability to become a standout linebacker for the Huskies moving forward.

So, when offers started to roll in as a junior, McLaughlin gave up baseball to focus on the weight room. He also joined the track team to improve his speed.

“I knew track was going to get me better for my college sport, which is football,” McLaughlin said. “Having this off-season of lifting and getting my speed up, it helped me get a lot of attention. Not playing baseball and being able to lift right before track practice has helped me put on a lot more size and speed.”

McLaughlin immediately started to make a name for himself at the varsity level as a junior. He was part of a Hamilton defense that was one for the top units in the state, and which helped the Huskies gain national attention with wins over Bishop Gorman in dramatic fashion and rival Chandler.

He was third on the team with 80 total tackles, including eight for a loss. He proved his ability to stop the run while also being able to go out in coverage on opposing wideouts.

His skill has helped him gain attention from colleges. As it stands, his top seven schools include Arizona, Colorado, Washington State, Ohio, Montana State, Air Force and Northern Arizona.

“Once the college coaches saw the physical development and his speed, which was verified with track, he showed he can play at that level,” Zdebski said. “Alex had the film, he’s a playmaker but now he showed the track speed.”

McLaughlin is one of many names on a stout Hamilton defense. Chandler Davis has become one of the top defensive ends in the state. Taye Brown is a force at outside linebacker, someone Zdebski says dominates drills specifically meant to limit his ability to make a play during practice. He plays opposite of McLaughlin.

Hamilton also has a dynamic secondary led by state champion high jumper Rachana Man and standout free safety Genesis Smith.

McLaughlin said playing alongside those players, along with other standout defenders, makes his job easy and fun. He recognized how special they were last season. And even with holes to fill this year, he feels they can once again be dominant on that side of the ball.

Zdebski agrees.

“Alex and Taye on the edges are going to be really good for us,” Zdebski said. “I think Alex has shown he has the ability to play in coverage and play in space, which is really good.”

McLaughlin’s mission is simple: He aims to leave a lasting image on the school much like J.D. did during his time in high school.

But most importantly, he wants to bring a championship to Hamilton.

“All of us 23s, we’ve talked about it since our freshman year, that we are going to win it as seniors,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a big thing for us. This 23 class, we are so close together and we are all going to play together.”