Posted on Monday, June 09, 2014
A charter member of the Hobart College Athletics Hall of Fame, Donald "A-to-Z" Aleksiewicz '73 died unexpectedly at his home in Aurora, Colorado, on June 2. The two-sport star was a dominant running back and a national champion in lacrosse.
A memorial service for Aleksiewicz will be held at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 11 at Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Aurora.
An All-American on the gridiron, Aleksiewicz carried the ball 819 times for 4,525 yards and 44 touchdowns, all Hobart career records at the time. Currently, his totals rank second on the rushing yards list, third on the attempts list, and fourth on the rushing TD list. Aleksiewicz's career rushing yards per game average of 133.1 was the fourth highest in NCAA Division II history when he graduated and still ranks 28th on the all-time list.
"Donny was the first person I met at Hobart when we both showed up for preseason football practice as freshmen," Classmate, teammate, and fellow Hall of Famer Bob Raleigh '73 said. "I distinctly remember that he looked like an elite athlete, oozed confidence, and was really fun to be around."
"A-to-Z had a larger-than-life personality," said Hall of Famer Tom Korn '75. "He was an incredibly gifted athlete, a fierce competitor and was always ready to share his sharp sense of humor. Donny was the most colorful person, I have ever met. Both on and off the playing field, Donny had his own distinctive approach to life."
As a sophomore, Aleksiewicz produced a Hobart season record 1,146 yards rushing, including a 97 yard TD run at Alfred, the second longest run from scrimmage by a Statesman.
In 1971, A-to-Z led the nation in rushing, averaging 179.2 yards per game, at the time the second highest average in Division II history (currently 24th). He ran for a Hobart record 1,616 yards and a then record 19 touchdowns that season, helping the Statesmen to a 5-4 record, the program's first winning season in nearly a decade. A-to-Z rushed for a Hobart single game record 286 yards at Colby that year.
His record-breaking campaign earned him a lengthy list of honors, including Kodak first team All-American, AP third team Little All-American, New York State Sports Writers Player of the Year, and ICAC Player of the Year.
A year later, Aleksiewicz gained 1,249 yards, second on the Hobart list to his record from 1971 and scored 13 rushing TDs, also second to his total from a year earlier. The 1972 Statesmen went 7-2, the program's best mark since the undefeated 1957 season. No team might have been happier to see A-to-Z graduate than the Mules, as the senior followed up his 286-yard game in '71 by scoring five rushing touchdowns (one shy of the Hobart record) against Colby in 1972.
Aleksiewicz moved up to the AP Little All-America second team as a senior.
"His name alone became something that defined us," Raleigh said. "After all these years it still happens. A few weeks ago while traveling to Ohio on business I met a former player from the powerhouse program at Mount Union. When we uncovered that we had in fact played against each other, his first comment was, 'That A-to-Z dude was the real deal.' I assured him that we all concurred and I proudly shared a few stories that added to his lore."
A four-year letter winner in football, Aleksiewicz also won three letters as a midfielder in lacrosse while helping the Statesmen capture the Colleges' first national championship, the 1972 USILA College Division Championship. During the title run, the Statesmen beat defending national champion Cornell 11-10 thanks to back-to-back goals, the last with just 13 seconds remaining, by Aleksiewicz.
"The legend of A-to-Z was born, not just by the accumulation of gaudy statistics, but the fact that they occurred in big moments," Raleigh said. "The famous 13 seconds vs. Cornell is a prime example."
A member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, Aleksiewicz graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology.
A-to-Z signed with the Canadian Football League's Ottawa Rough Riders right out of school, had tryouts with various NFL teams and played with the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League.
One of only four Statesmen to have his football jersey retired, Aleksiewicz was one of the nine men to make up the Hobart Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 1986, the inaugural class of inductees.
"It's been said that you are never really gone as long as you are remembered," Korn said. "For those of us lucky enough to have been his teammates and friends, we will always remember Donny, a very special and unique person."
Raleigh concurred, "I'm thankful for having had the chance to share these decades with a one of a kind friend."