Humboldt State University alum Alex Cappa did not play with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in this year’s Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs. However, after being a valuable piece in the Buccaneers offense throughout most the season, he will be going home with his first Super Bowl ring of his young career.
Cappa has now played two seasons for Tampa Bay, but suffered a fractured ankle on Jan. 9 in the Wild Card game against the Washington Football Team. Though he was out for the Super Bowl, Cappa started in all 17 games of the regular season as quarterback and seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady. This is a huge accomplishment for Cappa, one of HSU’s very own, in assisting Tampa Bay towards a Super Bowl Championship.
Strength and conditioning coach Drew Peterson, who has been with the Athletic Department since 1991, remembers the first time he saw Cappa during one of their recruiting weekends. He recalls him being an unassuming, quiet and humble guy coming up from Dublin, California.
“It was a big deal, you know, you have these large diverse groups of parents and potential players coming up here,” Peterson said. “And you know for two to three months it was every weekend. I remember his particular recruiting weekend there was a huge group of people, he was standing up in the back and he was this tall, skinny guy, with long, straggly blonde hair and I thought he was somebody’s family member.”
Jonathon Rowe, an assistant offensive line coach at the University of Washington and former offensive lineman for the HSU Jacks from 2011-2015 shared his first impression meeting Cappa on his recruiting trip.
“He was very soft-spoken and a little shy,” Rowe said. “But I found out rather quickly how hard of a worker he was, especially in the weight room. He came in at 245 lbs and by his redshirt freshman year he was 294 lbs.”
Cappa spent a total of four years at HSU from 2013-2017. He studied kinesiology and did an internship his senior year with Coach Peterson, where Peterson recalled him becoming everyone’s favorite quite early on.
“He was just always taking time with them, working with them and telling them what to do,” Peterson said. “He’s just this larger than life figure, and he was not anymore this tall straggly kid. He was a 300lb, sculpted football player.”
It was during the 2018 NFL draft that he was picked up by Tampa Bay in the third round as the 94th pick overall. Cappa was originally projected to be a fifth round pick. This followed after his time playing in the 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl and attending the scouting combine in Indianapolis.
“My initial reaction when he was drafted to the Bucs was that I couldn’t have been more excited,” Rowe said. “Because I knew how hard he had worked just to get to that point.”
It was a year later in 2019 that Tom Brady retired himself as a New England Patriot after winning the Super Bowl, leaving New England behind and looking toward Tampa Bay. This resulted in Alex Cappa becoming right guard to Brady himself.
“I was even more excited when I found out he would be playing with probably one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game,” Rowe said. “I’m extremely proud of him for how far he’s come and the position he’s put himself in. He’s only going to get better from here.”
According to the NCAA, there are over 1 million students playing high school football in the United States. Of those students, about 73,000 actually participate in the NCAA and only about 16,000 of them even become eligible for the NFL draft. Only a mere 254 of those players are drafted, actually landing themselves a spot in the NFL.
To play professionally is one of many young and collegiate athletes’ biggest dream. To be playing in the big leagues, sometimes alongside your childhood icons, can feel like an unattainable goal with the odds staked against you.
But for Cappa, by putting one foot in front of the other, working hard and striving to beat those unimaginable odds, he did it. He accomplished what every young football player dreams of.
“What a journey you know, to be passed over by everybody and [his] only place to go was Humboldt State,” Peterson said. “Pretty much every time they scan the camera on Tom Brady, you see Alex Cappa. All these highlights of Brady, I see Cappa. All these regular season highlights — there he is, number 65.”
Looking back at his second season statistics as a starting guard, Cappa has been an integral player to Tampa Bay’s offensive, with over 1,000 snaps at the guard position and part of an offensive line group that held defenses to only 18% of Brady’s pass attempts pressured.
Notably, he also took part in an offensive line that finished second in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass play and Cappa helped the Buccaneers’ offense rank at the third best offensive line in the NFL. It is an unfortunate moment for Cappa, Tampa, and HSU, that he didn’t get a chance to finish out the season with his team in the Super Bowl. But although he didn’t participate in Sunday’s big game, it’s important to recognize the magnitude of what he has accomplished since his recruiting weekend at HSU those years ago. He beat unimaginable odds, worked extremely hard and continues to be a tough, dedicated player with his eyes steadfast on success and accomplishment within the game of football. Brady attests to his strong-willed personality and grit through his first season playing with Cappa.
“[He’s] one of the toughest guys we’ve had on our team,” Brady said in a press conference after Cappa was injured. “We’ve had a really great group up front, [including] guys who have filled in at different times. Cap has been there really the whole year, had a tremendous year. [He’s] a tough, hard-nosed football player.”