The local TV cameras are pointed at a group of young men, all impeccably dressed in sports coats, sitting behind an oak table. It's national collegiate signing day for high school football players. Smiling nervously at the media are a dozen senior teammates from DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md., a perennial football powerhouse.

All wear caps, most of them stitched with familiar logos like the Iowa Hawkeye or the Pitt Panther. These kids are going places, maybe even to the NFL like one DeMatha alumnus, Brian Westbrook, who went on to star for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Then there's Alex Copeland—the slender guy near the end of the table—the one who is grinning with the crimson red cap that has a three-letter acronym on the front. Where's he headed? USC? OSU? Try CMU. Copeland, a tight end who only started playing organized football in 10th grade, was widely recruited by Division 1 programs; he also passed up offers from Harvard and Princeton to wear Tartan plaid.

"Last spring, I was dead set on going to Princeton after attending their recruiting camp," Copeland says. "I only visited CMU out of convenience." After touring the campus, Copeland's plans took a 180-degree turn. He saw a place where he could be an Iron Man off the field, too, like his favorite comic-book character. "I know that a degree from CMU will allow me to work for a good engineering company, hopefully to the level of millionaire-industrialist-turned-superhero] Tony Stark," laughs Copeland. "What impresses me most about the school is the job opportunities after graduation. CMU's alumni are making history now."

Now. It's the main reason Copeland passed up Princeton for Pittsburgh. While he and his father strolled the CMU campus last summer, they passed an ivy-less yellow-brick building and were struck by the name on the front: Tepper. "We were both amazed that the school is named after a newsworthy person today who is doing so well, rather than someone long gone," Copeland says. "I love that current workmanlike attitude and energy. It's what sets CMU apart."

Back at the signing-day media scrum, reporters make their way to Copeland. One of them, from WUSA Channel 9, asks how people react when he tells them he's passing on Harvard and Princeton and Division 1 programs. "They're shocked at first," Copeland says.

"Don't worry," the reporter winks. "They'll probably end up working for you some day."
Sean Conboy (HS'07)