It was the perfect combination, the mixing of a lifetime love and a chance to experience the world.
"I love traveling; love vacations,'' said Alex McAvoy, a Geneseo High School football standout, who along with Alleman star Anthony Glancey, recently represented the United States as part of the American Football Worldwide ELITE select team. That group traveled to Italy to battle the National U19 American Football team of Italy, winning 58-0.
"Combine a love of traveling and a love of football and you have the perfect mix,'' added McAvoy, who is heading to Iowa State University to study engineering. "It was the chance to play what will probably be my last game of football in a unique setting and make the trip a family affair. I was lucky enough to have my family with me to share the ride.''
Glancey, an offensive and defensive tackle, and McAvoy a fullback/lineman, joined 33 other American athletes and families on the trip.
American Football Worldwide’s ELITE team built its roster from scouting, recommendations and nominations provided by high school coaches. The team had representation from every region of the United States and was led by AFW president Jim Barnes, the former head football coach at Rock Island's Augustana College.
"I thought I would never get an opportunity like this again, to play overseas, meet new people and have an amazing life experience,'' Glancey said of the chance. "So I jumped at it when it was offered.''
Days for the two players, while occupied early in the morning with football, were educational, touring of many of the historical and cultural highlights of Italy. Dozens of parents and family members joined their tour party to experience one of the world’s most historically fascinating countries.
“Observing these young men grow from the education that international travel offers is the most rewarding aspect of the tour,'' Barnes said. "Each day held a special life-expanding experiences for these young men, all of whom demonstrated that they possess a grander vision for their future. In so many respects, it is a tremendous experience for a student to have before going on to the collegiate level.
"Understanding that practice would be first, around 7 a.m., so we could enjoy all that surrounded us, was a challenge,'' McAvoy said. "But once we got used to that, it was great. The sights and sounds of what we had a chance to see was amazing. Not just for me, but for my family.''
During the week, players tour historical icons of Italy, including the Roman Coliseum and Forum, the piazzas of Rome, Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica, Sienna, Florence, Cinque Terra and Milan.
"Each stop was great, but the Vatican holds a special place for me,'' Glancey said. "Having a better understanding of what goes on inside those walls will stay with me forever.''
McAvoy says Sienna still stands out in his mind.
"The way the homes rest on a hillside and that everything seems to be on an incline struck me,'' he said. "There is a small-town feel to it, kind of like Geneseo.''
Both lauded the food, though Glancey said pasta has been off his diet since returning home.
"I loved the chance to experience different foods,'' he said. "Pasta is served with every dish, so you can imagine growing tired of it. The great food only added to the week.''
The football side the experience was amazing both players said, despite the game's lopsided final score. Playing with other talented athletes from across America, and playing America's game on foreign soil, was unique on many fronts.
"The talent level of our team was off the charts,'' McAvoy said. "From skill guys to the linemen, it was fun to play with so many great athletes. The Italian team was talented, and it moved the football but struggled when it got into the red zone, near the goal line. It couldn't finish drives and we could. On our side, everywhere you turned there were great football players.''
Glancey says his biggest fear was the language barrier but was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to communicate.
"It was different, but most Italians understood what we were trying to say when we said it,'' he said. "They met us halfway.''
For the two players, the trip, experiencing another country, playing a game they love and making friends from across the globe, will be something that stays with them forever.
"It was the ultimate family vacation for me,'' McAvoy said. "And it was something I will likely never experience again, because this had the football component to it. It was an amazing.''
Glancey echoed those sentiments.
"It's a memory of a lifetime,'' he said. "It's at the top in my list.''
For football and for life.