Some would say Alexis Serna lived through a storybook career with the Oregon State football team, but it was more of a twisted tale for Behind the Music.

He experienced a rise from obscurity, epic failure and a Phoenix-like rise to the top. And even now he's still trying to prove himself and return to glory.

For nearly two years, what the national sports world knew about the Beavers was what Serna did in his debut as a redshirt freshman and the aftermath.

Serna missed three extra points, including one in overtime that ended the game, in a 22-21 loss at Louisiana State, the previous year's national champion.

However, he went on to become the greatest kicker in OSU history. Serna even won the Lou Groza Award the following year in 2005 for being the best kicker in the nation.

That's why he was named the sixth greatest OSU player of the decade, voted on by the Corvallis Gazette-Times sports staff and community members.

"He's another great Oregon State story of perseverance and overcoming a lot of adversity," coach Mike Riley said. "He worked hard and became one of greatest kickers in history."

Serna came out of Fontana, Calif., as a walk-on and redshirted his first year. He won the kicking competition the day before the first game of the season.

That game was at LSU's packed house. One miss, even two, can happen as his plant foot slipped in the mud in the wake of a storm that delayed the game.

The third one hurt because it ended the game. And what were the chances of it happening again?

Serna was emotionally devastated that night, falling to the ground in anguish. He lay on the floor of the locker room in embarrassment. Teammates were furious with him, and he worried about his safety.

John Dailey took over as the kicker the following week, while Serna became a national sports story. ESPN made specials about him.

After sitting out, Serna came back the next game and regained the job with a clutch field goal against New Mexico. He eventually became a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award. That led to receiving a scholarship after the season, right when he considered transferring because he couldn't afford to stay.

"When I went looking for a kicker, I realized that the best one for the job was right here," Riley said at the time.

Fan letters of support poured in from around the country after the LSU game. One came from Austan Pierce, a 12-year-old boy from Spokane, Wash., who was fighting cancer.

Learning about Pierce's struggles, Serna realized his were not so bad. He befriended Pierce and used him as motivation. He wrote an "A" on his left thumb and "P" on his right one before each game as reminder of Pierce's letter.

One of his best games came in a victory over Oregon in 2004 when he made five field goals and five extra points. Then there were the six field goals in an 18-10 win at Washington. That game was played in a constant and cold rain.

Serna continued his growth and won the Lou Groza as a sophomore. He was 23 of 28 on field goals, including 15 in a row.

He was 80 for 104 in his career. Most of the misses came from long range, but he hit seven from beyond 50 yards.

Serna ended his career as the second-leading scorer in Pacific-10 Conference history with 384 points. After the LSU game he never missed another extra point, a stretch of 144 straight.

"Alexis Serna came from one of the most horrible starts you've ever seen as a first game of a career," Riley said. "Coming back and preserving through a lot personal struggles of being a kicker again, and a couple years later becomes the Lou Groza winner as the best kicker in the country, was amazing."

A consistent leg and the ability to come back didn't lead to an NFL contract.

Serna signed a free agent contract with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League in June 2008 and was the kicker and punter there his first season. He had started punting his senior year when the punter abruptly left before the season started.

There was a strong start to his rookie season, but he finished 33 of 50 on field goals and 40 of 40 on extra points. Serna concentrated on kicking in 2009, and was 40 of 49 on field goals and 34 of 34 on extra points.


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