Al Alexander big part in development of Salpointe linemen with college title aspirations

Former Salpointe standout linemen Colin Dreis (left) of Montana and Matteo Mele of Washington are in position to be on national championship teams

Sahuaro coach Al Alexander, a longtime offensive line coach at Salpointe, will follow Colin Dreis on ABC-TV (Channel 9) when Montana plays South Dakota State on Sunday at noon for the FCS national championship.

Alexander hopes to congratulate Dreis and fellow former Salpointe offensive lineman Matteo Mele, a sixth-year senior center now at Washington, after they experience a national title in the next few days.

Washington plays Monday against Michigan for the College Football Playoffs championship (ESPN, 5:30 p.m.), but Mele will unfortunately not be on the field after suffering a torn biceps three games into this season. Mele will be on the sidelines as an inspirational leader.

“He waited his turn because COVID-19 was bad for him because all the years kids stayed,” Alexander said. “If you look every year, they had dudes going to the NFL. He waited his turn and then he got injured.”

Al Alexander recently completed his second season as Sahuaro’s head coach after being an assistant Salpointe for 15 years (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson)

Mele and Dreis were coached by Alexander (who was part of Dennis Bene’s staff) at Salpointe from 2014-18. Mele lettered from 2014-17 and Dreis from 2015-18.

Both were tight ends who Alexander talked into playing tackle.

Dreis made the switch before his junior season.

“That offseason, Colin worked his butt off and put on 70 pounds; the rest is history,” Dreis’ mom, Danalda, commented. “Al is a great coach, and we are forever grateful for all he did. Colin still talks to him, as does Mateo, I believe. After Colin won the semis (with Montana last week), Al was the first person he texted.”

Alexander, who completed his second season as Sahuaro’s head coach in the fall, keeps in contact with Dreis, Mele and all of his linemen who have gone on to play at college, including UCLA’s Bruno Fina.

They generally meet at Christmas time if a bowl appearance does not interfere.

“They all come down and we all go have something to eat,” Alexander said. “So that’s pretty cool. There’s a bunch of them. Trust me, it gets expensive.”

Mele and Dreis played in the 2017 championship game with Salpointe against Scottsdale Saguaro and Dreis then played in the 2018 title game against the Sabercats.

Both are set to earn their master’s degrees this spring.

Mele (6-foot-6 and 298 pounds) was on the Rimington Watch List entering the season as one of the nation’s top offensive linemen.

Despite his injury, Mele remains heavily involved with team activities, including mentoring Washington’s younger offensive linemen.

“He’s got a lot of experience here, has seen a lot of things, been through a lot of situations. He’s helping out a lot with the young guys,” Washington offensive line coach Scott Huff told the Seattle Times. “Credit to Matteo and how he’s handling all this, because that’s a tough one, man. That’s a tough gone. Guy’s been here for six years, and for him to get his shot and have that happen … it’s tough.”

Dreis (6-7 and 270) is a fifth-year junior who redshirted as a freshman in 2019 and gained another year of eligibility because of COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 and 2021.

He is a two-time Academic All-Big Sky selection.

When asked what separates Dreis and Mele from others, Alexander said, “Their will and determination to be be good. And both of them had the intangibles. You can’t coach height. That has helped them out a lot.”

Alexander and Mele learned immediately that Mele switching from tight end to offensive tackle positively impacted his future.

“I told Mele, if he took the ‘E’ off (tight end) and was just a tackle, he’ll blow up,” Alexander said. “I think he did that on a Friday, and by the next Friday, he probably had six offers from Division I schools just because he’s an athletic tackle with size.”

Alexander, who was the Tucson Sugar Skulls offensive line coach in recent years, takes pride in seeing his former players succeed at a high level.

“It’s really cool because you see it pay off,” Alexander said. “When you look at it, it’s pretty elite company where they played at the highest level in high school and now they are playing at the highest level in college.

“It’s a good experience. They’ve got their school paid for and are having fun doing it, man. It’s actually really cool to see the end result. You see them grow up. That’s the fun part about it — watching them grow up.”


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator in 2016 and is presently a special education teacher at Sunnyside High School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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