Alex Ramart

It’s a long, somewhat bumpy and sometimes dead-end road that has brought Alex Ramart to Indiana University of Pennsylvania. But he’s glad to be here, and he feels like he’s at home — even if he admittedly had never heard of IUP until a few months ago.

Ramart, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound quarterback who grew up in Colorado, played high school football in Texas and spent five semesters playing college football in Ohio, transferred to IUP last month and has begun preparing to compete for the starting job for the Crimson Hawks.

“It’s going well,” he said. “The first couple weeks were interesting. I felt like a freshman again, trying to find out where classes are and all that. But it’s been good.”

Ramart comes to IUP from Division I FCS Akron, a member of the Mid-America Conference. He’s the third quarterback to transfer to IUP from a MAC school in the past two seasons, following Quinton Maxwell (Ohio University) and Jalen Reese (Toledo), who played their senior seasons at IUP in 2019.

Ramart took a redshirt at Akron in 2017, then played in six games the following season. Last year, he entered fall camp with an opportunity to get some playing time, but he was sidelined by an injury to his meniscus, and he didn’t get into any games.

He was originally recruited to Akron by head coach Terry Bowden, but when Bowden was fired and replaced by Tom Arth, Ramart felt like he wasn’t in Akron’s long-range plans. It was clear to him that freshman Zach Gibson was going to get the bulk of the work.

“I liked what they had going as a culture, so I stuck it out through last spring and the fall,” he said. “I had an opportunity to compete in the fall, but then they had (Gibson) come in. I had a meniscus injury and they gave me a couple days off. They had their freshman QB take the reps when I was quote-unquote resting, and I didn’t get them back after I returned.”

So …

“I thought it was time for me to move on,” he concluded.

Ramart got his release from Akron and put his name into the NCAA Transfer Portal, and IUP’s Paul Tortorella was one of the first coaches to make contact. Ramart said he had a lot of schools show interest in him, but IUP was one of the few that piqued his interest — even if he had never heard of the school.

“I never heard of it until I was getting recruited,” he said. “But I talked to some coaches and they told me their story. I did some research, and that’s when I started to see what IUP is all about.”

Ramart made subsequent visits to fellow NCAA Division II schools Bemidji State in Minnesota and Midwestern State in Texas, but he felt IUP was the right place.

Tight end Grant Smith hosted Ramart’s visit and sold him on the Crimson Hawks’ winning culture. Scott Weigner, the director of the campus chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, also made an impact in a 90-minute talk.

“It was a comfortability quality about him that made me feel like I could be who I wanted to be,” he said. “He was honest and open, and he said everyone would be very accepting of me and they’d help me through my journey. That’s something I hadn’t seen since high school, so that was nice for me.”

Another thing that will be nice for him is to play for a team that is likely to win a lot of games. Akron went 11-27 in Ramart’s three seasons, including a goose-egg 0-12 mark in 2019. That was quite a change from high school, when he guided Foster to a 14-1 record his senior season in Texas.

At IUP, Ramart will be part of a team that has gone 31-6 in three seasons under Tortorella, including a 10-2 mark last year, when Maxwell and Reese combined to pass for 3,621 yards and 41 touchdowns.

“That’s a big-time factor,” he said, “especially coming from high school where we didn’t lose a lot of games at all. Losing was not something I was used to. And then I got to Akron and it happened a lot. I want to get back to winning some football games.”

Ramart will have at least two years of eligibility remaining, possibly three, if he can get a medical redshirt for last year.

When spring drills begin March 26, Ramart will be competing for the starting job with Javon Davis, a sophomore who redshirted last season. Davis served as the backup in 2018 and completed 11 of 23 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns in mop-up duty.

Tortorella said Ramart will have to win the job, and the new QB is OK with that.

“It’s nothing that I haven’t had to do before,” he said. “When I was in high school, I had to compete with another guy when I transferred in. This is like that. I just need to do what I do and play football the way I know how.”

He’s started meting his teammates and he likes what he sees so far — especially considering the long road he had to travel to get here.

“We’ve got a lot of great guys,” he said. “Different people have different talents, but the biggest thing I see is their mentality about working. They all want to work. The mentality overall of this team is to work hard in order to make this team better, and I like that a lot. I’m excited to be here with everyone and to get to work.”