A man once said, “The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.” In the case of Charlotte defensive end Alex Highsmith, obstacles in his path seem much more like stepping stones.
From walking on in 2015 to being named First Team C-USA in 2018, Highsmith has proven he’s more than capable of competing at the highest level. While being a student-athlete is incredibly demanding, Alex’s goals extend further than the gridiron.
“I want to be known for more than my performance on the field. I want people to remember me for my character and me as a person rather than me on the football field,” Highsmith said. “Whether that’s helping out people in the community or just putting others before myself, the mark that I want to leave is bigger than football.”
While the accolades and recognition obtained along the way are well deserved, Alex doesn’t fail to credit those around him. “My family, friends, and teammates continue to push me to grow not just as a person or a player, but in my walk with God as I strengthen my faith.”
Regarding Alex’s character, you can sense the upstanding qualities immediately from his humble demeanor to his respectful intellect. Concerning Alex’s athletic ability, you quickly see why he’s headlined in the opposing coach’s game plans. A monstrous 17.5 tackles for loss broke the 49ers record of 14.5 held by current Cleveland Brown Larry Ogunjobi.
The 6-foot-3 defensive end wreaked havoc against SEC stalwart Tennessee, setting a gold standard with 7 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a forced fumble.
Highsmith’s high work ethic has played a key role in his impressive performance on the Charlotte defense.
“As soon as I got here, I wanted to prove myself to a lot of people,” Highsmith said. “I had a different mindset than a lot of the guys I came in with. Whether that was working out, watching film, or lifting weights, I just wanted to stand out with my work ethic. My faith is something that’s helped me tremendously. Just putting my faith in God and knowing that he’s going to provide for me.”
Alex finished his junior season with 60 tackles, 3 sacks, and a team-high 2 forced fumbles. Highsmith’s work ethic and high-motor wouldn’t go unnoticed as Pro Football Focus graded him among the nation’s top defensive ends with a 91.2 rating following his career-high 10-tackle performance in Charlotte’s season finale.
“Coach Spencer and Coach Edmonds really had an impact on me,” Alex said. “Coach Spencer was our defensive coordinator last year, he was of the best coaches I’ve ever had. He really had a great influence on me, helping me to strive to be not just a great player but a great man as well. Coach Edmonds is a guy that just wouldn’t let me be average, and that really pushed me not just to be great at football, but to be a great husband or father in the future.”
Following a standout junior season, Alex is poised for another strong showing under newly named Charlotte head coach Will Healy. With the implementation of a 4-2-5 defensive scheme, Highsmith’s edge-rushing abilities will be on full display for the 49ers in 2019.
Proving himself under a new staff is the newest challenge for Alex, but if there’s anything I learned in my time with him - he’s built for it.
“Whether we are up 40 or down 40, I want to be known as the guy who always puts his heart out there and who gives his all on the field.”