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Switching gears: Herink taking talents to football field

Two-time All-WIAC basketball player Alex Herink (85) will take his talents to the football field for UW-River Falls this season as a 6-foot-7, 251-pound wide receiver for the Falcons. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Alex Herink (5) was the UW-River Falls men's basketball team's leading scorer the past two seasons and was named the WIAC Player of the Year following the 2016-17 season after leading the Falcons to the WIAC championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. File photo 2 / 3
Alex Herink (80) catches a touchdown pass for Hudson in the Raiders' 40-21 victory over Appleton North in a 2012 Level 3 playoff game in Stevens Point. File photo 3 / 3

What does an All-American basketball player do when his four years of college eligibility are up?

He goes out for the football team.

That's what Hudson native Alex Herink is doing this fall at UW-River Falls. After leading the Falcon basketball team in scoring the last two seasons, and being named All-American and WIAC Player of the Year in 2017, Herink is suiting up as a 6-foot-7, 251-pound wide receiver this season for the Falcons.

Herink has already made his mark on the basketball court. After setting Hudson's all-time scoring record with 1,462 points in high school, Herink played two years of basketball at Minnesota State University-Mankato before transferring to UWRF, where he averaged 16 points and seven rebounds the last two seasons and led the Falcons to just their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in program history in 2017.

But Herink has also had plenty of success on the football field. He was a member of Hudson's back-to-back Big Rivers Conference and state semifinal teams in 2012 and 2013, earning All-BRC Second Team honors as a senior after catching 24 passes for 511 yards and five touchdowns.

He said football helped make him a better basketball player in high school, now he's hoping his basketball skills will help him on the football field.

"I think being at receiver, the movements you use in basketball help a lot," he said. "Even blocking and boxing out, there's a lot of similarities. The biggest thing was getting in the weight room this summer. I really dedicated this summer to getting more of a football-type body."

Herink has added 20 pounds to his frame, something that has Falcon football coach Matt Walker excited.

"Alex brings us an immediate matchup problem for our opponents on the perimeter," Walker said. "His speed and athleticism for a guy his size is a unique weapon at wide receiver."

But Walker said Herink brings a lot more than athleticism to the Falcons.

"Alex brought with him a unique respect from his teammates," Walker noted. "All of our veterans watched him compete on the basketball court, lead our team to a basketball conference title a year ago, while also winning the conference player of the year. They know the type of competitor he is and the character he brings to our team. Not only is he an immediate factor for us on the field, but he is an incredible person and has helped our locker room and football family."

Adam Kowles, Herink's coach at Hudson and a former Falcons quarterback and member of the UWRF Athletic Hall of Fame, has no doubt Herink will succeed in his return to the football field.

"Even though he is a tremendous athlete, he is an even better person," Kowles said. "He is a great leader by the example that he sets for his teammates."

Kowles said Herink's commitment to his teammates came out loud and clear during his senior season at Hudson.

"We were playing Menomonie the last game of the season for the conference title in 2013," he recalled. "The night before the game he sent me a message that he wanted another senior wide receiver to start the game in his place, because that player hadn't played much all season and it was senior night. That's the type of person he is, always thinking about others. So Alex came off the bench that night, but he had a great game to lead us to the conference title."

Herink said it's been an adjustment preparing for football compared to basketball, but he's getting the hang of it.

"Just a different type of thinking and a different philosophy and different muscles and everything," he said. "It was rough the first few days but I've gotten into a rhythm now so it's good. The biggest thing has been just trying to learn the offense, having only a little bit over the summer to look at it. It's quite a bit of information you have to retain and obviously the better you know it, hopefully the better you're able to play."

Walker said so far, so good.

"I am so impressed with the commitment Alex has to mastering this offense and doing whatever he can do to help our football team," Walker said. "He did not take this on to just screw around and try football. We talked through the idea of him playing and when he made the decision to do so, he went after with everything he had and has never looked back. I would expect big things from him"

The Falcons open the 2018 season this Saturday, Sept. 1, at 6 p.m. at David Smit Stadium against the University of Minnesota-Morris. And Herink said he can't wait for his first football game in four years.

"I'm very excited to get a game under our belt and get on our way," he said. "I think it's going to be a great year."

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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