The 21-year-old Bertrand, now a junior studying physical education at Husson University, has developed a following around his hometown and within the state’s football community for his singing voice, a talent he put on display most recently on Friday night by performing the national anthem for the first time in public before MCI’s football game against Winslow at Alumni Field.
“I was more nervous about singing than about the game,” he said just before his a cappella performance.
Bertrand offered his rendition of the Star Spangled Banner to the large homecoming crowd and spent the next few minutes receiving individual plaudits from friends who made their way from the bleachers to the sidelines to acknowledge his performance.
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For Bertrand, who did not sing formally while in high school and has no specific musical training, putting himself out before a crowd — he also performed “God Bless America” before last July’s Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic football game in Saco — is a challenge unlike his four years of playing high school football under his father, MCI head coach Tom Bertrand.
The younger Bertrand, a fullback and linebacker, was one of the foundational blocks of a football program that rose from an 0-8 season during his freshman year to back-to-back Class D North championships in 2014 and 2015.
Watch: This high school football coach takes to the field — to sing
“The confidence that comes from me playing football and just how my mind works around that is on a whole different level,” he said. “When I sing I’m out there and it’s just me, I can see my flaws. People understand my flaws a lot more, and I know there’s going to be opinions, so that’s always running through my mind.
“But I also know that out here are people who are supporting me and love me, so it’s all good.”
Bertrand’s first singing gig of sorts came two summers ago at his father’s wedding.
“[Alex] would come home from work and my wife would say, ‘He sounds really good, we should ask him to sing at our wedding,’” Tom Bertrand said. “I thought, ‘He wouldn’t do that,’ but she said, ‘Do you mind if I ask,’ and she asked him and he said sure.”
Alex sang “Mango Tree” by the Zac Brown Band, and his performance created a buzz not only within the family but also among his friends.
Last summer he sang at three weddings as well as informally with work friends at the Broken Putter, a restaurant at the J.W. Parks Golf Course in Pittsfield.
But his big break of sorts came while working as an assistant coach for the East squad during a week of pre-game workouts for the Lobster Bowl at Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft.
“The coaching staff found out I could sing pretty well and they got me singing after practices,” Bertrand said. “Then [East head] coach Dan O’Connell [of John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor] told me I was singing on Saturday and that it was happening and there was no option.
“I said, ‘Awesome,’ but I wondered what I had gotten myself into.”
Bertrand performed “God Bless America” during pregame ceremonies in front of several thousand fans on hand for the 30th annual Lobster Bowl, held at Hill Stadium on the campus of Thornton Academy.
“There were a lot of people who saw that video [on Facebook],” he said, “and there was another video that went out later of me singing at one of my buddies’ houses at a fire around a pool, and that one blew up because one of the guests was from out of state.
“I’m out there, but honestly I don’t think I’m as good as other people say I am.”
That fan base includes his father, who also was part of the Lobster Bowl coaching staff.
“I’ve got some bootleg stuff that I’m going to keep in my pocket for a while from the Lobster Bowl of different songs that are pretty incredible,” Tom Bertrand said. “When Al talks about that group of guys getting him to sing, he was in a room of guys that I respect and he respects greatly in the football community who were taken aback by what they were hearing him sing.
“It was a fun summer for us.”
While his musical confidence level admittedly is still emerging, the interest in Alex Bertrand’s voice has piqued his interest in the possibilities.
“Every place I go they say you’ve got to get on “The Voice” or one of those shows,” he said. “If there were a path to go on that would lead me to this, not a dream but something that could happen … It’s not something I’m exactly sure of. I don’t think will happen, that’s the thing, but anything could happen, I know that.
“I’m open to it, for sure.”