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Talented wideout Sterling Alexander pumped for Saturday’s Ironmen opener after a relatively quiet 2023 

MUSKEGON – Arena football, played on a short field with a ton of passing, is a wide receiver’s dream.

As a result, there are a lot of talented receivers in the sport, competing for limited roster spots and opportunities.

The West Michigan Ironmen had four very good receivers last year – veterans Sterling Alexander, John Ross and Keondre Banks-Craig, along with a surprise standout, rookie backup quarterback Danny Hugan, who also turned out to be a great pass catcher.

For Alexander, that meant fewer passes coming his way than in 2022, when he broke into the league as a high-flying rookie who lit up the scoreboard with four touchdown receptions in two different games.

Veteran Ironmen receiver Sterling Alexander. Photo/Jeremy Clark

He didn’t catch any touchdown passes in the Ironmen’s first two games last season. He rose up and had four TD receptions in the third game, but had none in the playoff semifinal game, and just one in the league championship game.

It was not exactly the type of season he would have preferred. But Alexander is a team-first player, and he says he’s happy whenever the Ironmen are successful.

“I am happy when all of my teammates perform well and we get the win,” said Alexander, 25, who is beginning his third season with the Ironmen. “I wasn’t too upset by the fact that I didn’t have as many touches last year. When the ball came to me I made the plays I was supposed to make.

“Of course I always want more touches, but it wasn’t my time last year. Danny Hugan was a rookie and it was his time.”

Alexander hauls in a pass in the end zone. Photo/Jeremy Clark

Alexander is probably going to be a lot busier this season, because Banks-Craig and Hugan have both moved on, meaning he and Ross will likely anchor the wide receiver positions.

That sounds great to Alexander, who will be in the starting lineup on Saturday when the Ironmen host the Tri-State Bucks in their 2024 season opener at Trinity Health Arena.

“I am excited about (catching more passes) of course, but I am just as excited to simply be out there with all of our guys performing,” Alexander said. “I am curious to see what rookies go crazy this year.”

New Ironmen head coach Terry Mitchell (the team’s former offensive coordinator) is very happy to have Alexander back again this season, due to his experience, skill level, and the great relationship he has built with veteran quarterback Alex Carder.

Alexander reaches to make a catch under tight coverage. Photo/Jeremy Clark

“He’s a student of the game,” Mitchell said. “He might not be as fast as some of the others are, but he knows how to get open. His experience is very, very important, and one of the biggest things is the relationship he has with our quarterback. Their chemistry is spot on, and that’s a big advantage for us.”

Alexander said playing with Carder is a big part of the attraction of playing for the Ironmen.

“We kind of clicked the very first day, back when I was a rookie,” he said. “Listening to him, he will literally tell you where to be on the field to get the ball. He’s a really smart dude and a really good quarterback.”

Back in 2022, Alexander had dreams of using arena football to sharpen his skills as he worked toward getting a tryout in the National Football League.

Alexander beats a defender and hauls in a catch. Photo/Jeremy Clark

But he’s more settled now. He owns and operates a personal fitness business back in his hometown of Southfield, Michigan, he’s engaged to his longtime girlfriend, and he’s no longer laser-focused on moving up the football ladder.

He says he loves playing for the Ironmen and could picture himself becoming a veteran presence on the team for many seasons to come.

“The goal is still to get to the NFL, but I am really focused on my fitness career right now,” Alexander said. “It really comes down to what God has in store for me. If it’s playing in the NFL or helping people get in shape, I am ready for either of those things.

“I could definitely see (playing long-term for the Ironmen), for sure. I love the organization and the talent we bring in. I can definitely see the Ironmen growing and improving.”

Alexander cruises into the end zone for a touchdown. Photo/Jeremy Clark

Playing for the Ironmen means Alexander has to repeatedly make the long three-hour drive between his home in Southfield (which is in the metro Detroit area) and Muskegon every week, for practice and for games.

He said he doesn’t mind the drive, but he learned the hard way that he has to stay alert when he’s on the road.

Two years ago he was driving to Muskegon with former teammate Mike Wynn when he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed his car into the highway median. Alexander and Wynn were unharmed, but he admits the incident spooked him.

“I was pretty scared,” he said. “I dozed off, hit the median and my car was totaled. By God’s grace we were safe, and I was even able to play in the game that weekend, but now my fiancé comes with me every week. If I get tired she hops behind the wheel and drives.” [6]