The school year may only be half over, but for Alec Cromie the next step has already arrived.
Now a Weeki Wachee High graduate, Cromie will spend the weekend settling into his new digs at Tusculum College in Tennessee. The top statistical quarterback in Hernando County history officially signed with the Division II school on Wednesday and has already arrived on campus.
“I’m just excited to go on to the next chapter of my life,” Cromie said. “I want to take advantage as much as I can and enjoy 5 ½ years of college.
“The culture around the school was great. The area I loved. I wanted to get away from Florida and this seemed like the right fit for me.”
Though a total of five schools attempted to get Cromie in for a visit, Tusculum was the only one he ended up seeing up close, back in November. He made his final decision to sign over Christmas break.
However, he said he had planned to graduate from high school and enroll in college early during his junior season, after multiple discussions with then Weeki Wachee head coach Mark Lee.
“I felt like it was the best thing to do and put me in the best position to play in college,” Cromie said. “The benefit is I get a spring season and it doesn’t take off any eligibility.”
Cromie admits he felt “done with high school last year,” having already taken care of all major academic requirements. On the football field, there wasn’t much he didn’t achieve in three years as the Hornets’ starting signal caller, at least from a numbers standpoint.
For decades, this county and the area in general has featured run-oriented offenses, but Weeki Wachee was unique under Lee, a former quarterback with experience coaching that position at the college level. Lee, who stepped down in November but remains the school’s athletic director, took Cromie under his wing and the two formed a close enough bond that they were jokingly referred to as father and son.
“You like to look back at when he first started playing and how much he’s improved. He’s become a very good football player and a very good person. I’m looking forward to watching him grow and see how his college career goes,” Lee said. “I’m proud of him. He’s a very coachable kid. He didn’t take anything personal and he rises to the occasion. He likes being challenged.
“We had a pretty special relationship and I’ll miss being able to see him play every week. I’m sure we’ll always continue to stay in touch.”
In 30 career varsity games, the 6-foot-4 Cromie completed 329-of-683 passes, totaling 5,125 yards and 48 touchdowns against 30 interceptions. All of those are county records.
“I think he had a great career,” Lee said. “But I’m sure he’ll tell you he’d trade those stats for more wins. He’s not about himself. He wants the team to do well. He’ll do what it takes for success. I wish we’d have had a better outcome from some games but it didn’t happen.”
Indeed, Cromie’s individual performance is somewhat overshadowed by the Hornets’ 5-25 record during his three years under center. Though the team’s issues were primarily defense and depth, it still left a bitter taste.
“It was a big learning experience. It was fun and it was filled with a lot of ups and downs, and preparing me for what’s to come,” Cromie said. “Was it a good accomplishment for myself? Definitely. But people look at wins and losses. When you look at it that way, it was upsetting in a way.”
The upside for Cromie was he was allowed to develop as a classic drop-back passer, providing him with a skillset rare for local quarterbacks.
“The way Coach Lee runs his offense is made for a college style,” Cromie said. “It’s made me feel better about what to expect to run in college.”
“There’s not many quarterbacks that go into the college level being in the type of offense we did,” Lee said. “I think it’ll help him tremendously when he gets to play in college.
“It’ll be tough going up there. He’s no longer the big fish in the pond. Now he’s the little minnow in the sea. College is a lot faster and a lot stronger, and they’re going 100 miles per hour faster than what he’s used to.”
Cromie will have some extra time to adjust, and in the meantime, will study sports science as he decides whether to pursue a career in sports medicine or as a trainer. As for football, he’ll let the chips fall where they may.
“Right now,” Cromie said, “I’m just trying to do the best I can with what I’ve got.”
On Friday, three Central baseball players signed with colleges. Justin Chevalier is headed to Spoon River College, while Kestler Harvick and Marcus Rodriguez inked with John Wood Community College. Both schools are in Illinois.