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Alex football: Ready for the payoff

Alexandria quarterback John Vogeler looked over the defense as he came to the line of scrimmage in the Cardinals' homecoming game against St. Cloud Apollo last year. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

Alexandria's John Vogeler has had the life of a traveling salesman this summer. Here one day, gone the next, all with the hope of selling himself for the future, while preparing for the present.

"It was very much of a grind," Vogeler said as the final days of summer ticked away this past Monday. "I would get back from one camp and get six hours of sleep, wake up and go to another camp...if I could take time off, I would, but there really wasn't that much time to take off."

Such is life for high school athletes who are set on using the off-season to improve in their sport and showcase themselves to college coaches. Vogeler was able to do that in both of his sports on the AAU basketball circuit while playing for the Minnesota Comets and through a total of seven football camps he attended this summer.

Vogeler had to manage his time wisely to make it all fit in. In between time in the weight room and getting shots up in the gym, he was on the road. His AAU season took him to tournaments in the Twin Cities area, Iowa, North Dakota and Las Vegas in July.

The football stops for the soon-to-be senior quarterback included camps at colleges across the region at places like the University of Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State, Northern State and North Dakota State. His stop in Marshall at a Southwest Minnesota State camp saw him earn the camp's QB Challenge Top Gun Award, along with winning a distance competition on a throw of 58 yards against a field of 29 other quarterbacks.

Vogeler felt a sense of responsibility to work on his game as the quarterback on a Cardinals team that is trying to rebound from a 2-8 record in 2012. He feels he's done that, and in the process, he's gained a renewed confidence after putting his first full season as a varsity starter behind him.

"Last year, it was my first year, and I didn't really start gaining a great deal of confidence until the last part of the season," Vogeler said. "Having known that you put all that work in and to see it work out where you're beating other quarterbacks and performing the best and winning competitions [at these camps], you just come into the season knowing you've become that much better."

Vogeler felt he needed to shore up some of his mechanics as a quarterback if he was going to become the player he wants to be. To help with that, he traveled to Ann Arbor to compete in a week-long camp at the University of Michigan. Vogeler got to play games in the Big House, meet players like former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson and tour some of the best facilities in the Big Ten.

But most importantly, it was an opportunity to learn from more than 30 college coaches from around the country. They worked with players on almost all of their mechanics; things like footwork, knowing what depth to take drops at, their stance and how to receive the snap; a lot of the little things that make a big difference in whether or not any quarterback is successful at a high level.

"It was pretty spectacular," Vogeler said. "We got to step on the field, but not just that, we got to play a game on that field with all those coaches watching. It's an unbelievable opportunity."

That was the other benefit of putting in all this time; the exposure it gave him to coaches at the next level. Vogeler loves basketball and said he feels like he had a strong AAU season this summer, but his recruitment at the college level has actually been stronger for football.

Vogeler said every coaching staff at the camps he went to, other than Michigan, has kept in contact with him throughout the summer. No scholarship offers have come yet, but he listed UMD, Northern State, St. Cloud State, Drake, Hamline, Northern Illinois, SMSU and the University of Sioux Falls as some of the schools he is hearing from.

"They're all showing interest, so it's going to be interesting to see what happens after my senior year," Vogeler said. "Some schools said they were going to (offer a scholarship), but they're waiting to see my senior year."

Alexandria football coach Mike Empting knows that can be a tough situation for a kid to be put in. He believes Vogeler has the tools to have a successful season. He just hopes he doesn't try to do too much.

"When you look at it, a young man could put the pressure on himself and think, 'If I don't perform well, this is my college scholarship opportunity,' " Empting said. "I think they have to try to keep it in perspective. Recognize that this is a team game, and it takes more than just you for you to be successful."

Empting feels Vogeler has the right mindset to be able to do that. His experience as a two-year starter in basketball and having a year at quarterback under his belt will only help.

"I think being in that competitive venue, you learn how to deal with pressure, you learn how to deal with competition and with different game situations," Empting said. "Yeah, I think he has it in him to be able to handle it...John just has to go out and play the game. Do what he does. Be a great athlete. Use his arm and his legs and do what he can do game in and game out."

Vogeler knows that helping this team bounce back from a tough 2012 season is a good way to impress those coaches at the next level. Captains' practice started this week for the Cardinals before they open up camp this coming Monday.

Vogeler said he hopes the work he put in not only helps his game, but helps him become a better leader. That could pay dividends, not only for this team, but for Vogeler's future, as well.

"We're very motivated," Vogeler said. "We try to use last season as motivation to do better this year. Use that in the weight room, just knowing that feeling that we didn't have that great of a season last year and using that pain as motivation to become a better player and a better team all together. We're all motivated. We've all put in the time this summer to become a lot better team."

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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