After his hamstring was completely separated from the bone during a football scrimmage his sophomore year, Alex A.J. Gardner’s hopes for playing for the Clemson Tigers were crushed. However, his dream became a reality after acting in the Disney movie, “Safety.”
“Safety” is an original movie about the previous Clemson football player, Ray McElrathbey. The movie is set to come out in 2020.
Gardner attended Gilbert High School in Arizona, but is originally from Greenville. He says he always loved playing sports like soccer, basketball and football: “I focused on football because I loved it the most and loved playing it.”
During a scrimmage game one day, Gardner felt and heard a pop in his leg. He immediately knew his football playing days were over.
“I knew it was bad when it happened,” he said. “I felt depressed, knowing I would be out the rest of the season.”
It took about a year for Gardner to recover, leading to him take the season off his junior year.
“I had to get my mind right before I went back to playing,” he said.
His senior year, he was able to go back and play: “I didn’t play a lot but at least my injury was in the past.”
In May of 2019, Gardner graduated from high school. His plan was to attend Clemson and play football, but his past injury prevented him from doing so. Gardner now had to find a new career path.
After scrolling through his Instagram feed one day, he saw something about acting that piqued his interest.
“I thought acting could be an interesting direction to go in,” Gardner said.
Gardner started doing research into acting and saw an opportunity in Clemson.
“I heard about the Disney movie being filmed in Clemson, so I emailed Nate Scott, the casting director, to see if I could be an extra,” Gardner said.
Scott, who is also a director, reached out to him and invited him to be one of the football players in the movie. While this isn’t exactly how Gardner imagined playing on the Clemson football field, it was still something he always wanted to do.
“I was excited to get to be on the Clemson field and do what a Clemson football player would do,” Gardner said.
Gardner said he made many connections during his first experience with acting. He learned who to talk to and the people he needed to be surrounded by.
“I plan on auditioning for more roles and being active in the acting community,” Gardner said. “My family is very supportive of the decision I have made.”