Cedric Alvis walks sluggishly off the football field, his eyes focused on his cleats, silently reliving his team’s loss.
Although Alvis speaks somberly after the game, three hours earlier he was bouncing up and down, cracking jokes with teammates and hardly able to control his excitement about the night’s game.
“Cedric absolutely hates to lose,” Hickman coach Gregg Nesbitt said. “That is the greatest aspect about him.”
Alvis, a 5-foot-10 junior, handles many positions, including cornerback, wide receiver and return specialist, while serving as a leader on defense. As the Kewpies’ lone returning starter in the secondary, Alvis is charged with shutting down the opposition’s best receiver.
“I feel that if I go out there and show my team by doing my job,” Alvis said. “Not by verbally telling them ‘do this, do that’ I can lead our defense.”
For Alvis, football has always been in the family. His uncle Tim Alvis played for Rock Bridge and his grandfather David Alvis played for Central Methodist College. The St. Louis (now Arizona) Cardinals drafted David Alvis, but a knee injury prevented him from making the team.
“I used to go out to my uncle’s games and I loved to watch and loved to play,” Alvis said.
Football is not the only thing shared in the Alvis family. Alvis’ grandmother, the Rev. Wanda Alvis, was the minister at the Fifth Street Christian Church in Columbia until she died Aug. 5.
“I was brought up in the church,” Alvis said. “Every Sunday. Choir practice, a lot of stuff like that. It plays a big part in my life.”
Rarely does Alvis speak about his play without evoking the Lord’s name.
“I think that the Lord has blessed me,” Alvis said. “I go out and I play just as hard as anyone else. I do the things the Lord has blessed me, has given me, to do.”
On the field, Alvis constantly matches up with taller, bigger receivers.
On Oct. 3, Nesbitt asked Alvis to cover Kyle Rausch, a 6-8 wide receiver from Blue Springs South. While Alvis covered Rausch, the rest of the Kewpies struggled to rush the passer, leaving Jaguars quarterback Nathaniel Ebel as much time as he needed to find an open receiver.
Rausch caught eight passes for 129 yards and one touchdown. Although Alvis continually hung on to Rausch, the height advantage proved too much for him to neutralize. Although teammates make light of the height disadvantage, senior Kyle Nuelle said Alvis’ play is sometimes unbelievable.
“For me, it’s his jump,” Nuelle said. “Because he’s like 5-3, and the dude on Blue Springs is like 6-6 and Cedric was still heads up on him.”
On Sept. 19 against Blue Springs, Alvis shadowed 6-6 Darius Hill. The result was different against Hill, for Alvis limited him to 53 yards on four receptions.
“I do what any d-back would do, and that is not let the receiver catch the ball,” Alvis said. “With me I can tell with the quarterback. In a zone, if you look at the quarterback, his eyes are going to lead you to where he is going to throw the ball. If you can watch his eyes he’s going to give it away.”
Alvis led the Kewpies in 2002 with four interceptions, was second with five passes broken up and made 23 tackles.
“He led the area in interceptions last year,” Nesbitt said. “He plays the ball in the air as well as any kid we’ve ever had back there.”
This year, Alvis has two interceptions through seven games, but his contributions are not limited to defense. Alvis has 23 receptions for 220 yards.
“There’s a lot of guys that can run a 5-yard route and catch it,” Nesbitt said. “There is not that many that can run the same 5-yard route, catch it, and turn it into something much greater than that. That is what he has the ability to do.”
Nesbitt added that Alvis also runs great routes. On Friday against Webb City, Alvis caught touchdown passes of 29 and 36 yards.
“Cedric is really an abnormally gifted athlete,” Nesbitt said. “He has as good of horizontal movement as any kid I’ve ever coached, and he’s got a great vertical to go up and get the football.”
On special teams, Alvis has two touchdowns, both coming in the same game. Against Blue Springs, Alvis picked up a blocked punt and ran it in for a touchdown. Fewer than five minutes later, Alvis scored on a 95-yard kickoff return.
“Any time you can score a touchdown it’s exciting,” Alvis said. “The coaches really drill us on special teams and teach us that special teams can really change a game. We don’t take special teams as a down off; it’s a place where me and my teammates can change a game.”
Although Alvis continues to improve at all facets of his game, Nesbitt said he believes Alvis is capable of better.
“My expectations of Cedric are actually a little bit higher,” Nesbitt said. “He’s given up some touchdown passes and he is not used to playing both ways. Sometimes it’s easy; the corner is on an island and it’s easy to lose your confidence. He’d never admit that, but perhaps he’s lost a little bit there.”