When Suzanne Bergen – Tufts Football senior tri-captain Alexander LaPiana's mother – went in for her first ultrasound while pregnant in 1996, she got a scare when the sonographer left the room to get the doctor.
Turns out it wasn't a scare at all. She thought she was having twins, but the doctor informed her that it was actually triplets. Though they were first-time parents, she and her husband Joe LaPiana were undaunted by having three children at once.
Tufts University Parents and Family Weekend Feature
"I was ecstatic," Bergen said.
Joey, Peter and Alexander LaPiana were born – in that order - on August 28, 1996. Unusual for triplets, Suzanne's pregnancy went full term, the boys were born perfectly healthy with weights ranging from 6.5 to 4.5 pounds, and they went home from the hospital the next day.
|The LaPiana family after a recent Jumbo game - Joe, Alexander, Joey, Suzanne and Peter|
That was the beginning of a beautiful life together that has helped shape the LaPiana brothers, who are now preparing to graduate college in the spring.
"I think a lot of who I am today is from growing up with my brothers," Alexander said. "It's a unique experience growing up with two guys the exact same age. We did everything together, but were still individual people."
They were a built in support system and social network for each other. Alexander admits that sometimes when he goes home he doesn't see his other friends because the two best ones are under the same roof. And it's been that way forever.
"Having two friends alongside for everything that you did was great," Joey said. "Ordinary chores and tasks were made fun because you were doing it with your best friends. Driving to school in the mornings, just us three, it was 15 minutes of unfiltered conversation."
The boys remain as close as ever even though they are following their own paths. Alexander is a senior Economics major at Tufts who has a job at Bank of America in Charlotte – their hometown – waiting for him after graduation. Joey and Peter are pursuing careers in the military. Joey is at the Air Force Academy and Peter is in the ROTC program at the University of Maryland. Both will graduate as second lieutenants in the Air Force and receive their MOS's soon.
"Thank God for technology we can Facetime whenever we want and stay close which has been great," Alexander said. "Our mom is the biggest benefactor of that because she gets to see our faces which she loves."
Sports played a key role in their development and provided many fond memories. Joey and Alexander were teammates on the Charlotte Catholic football team which played in the state championship game for their sophomore and senior seasons. Wrestling was the sport that brought the three of them closest together, as Alexander started at 152 pounds, Peter followed at 160 and then Joey was next at 170.
"It was an incredible experience having all three brothers in the lineup and getting three wins in a row," Peter said.
They were like a team at home as well. Joe is a pilot whose busy schedule had him on the road a lot. With three boys the same age to take care of, Suzanne taught them a no-nonsense approach to getting things done. She calls them her best friends. The collaboration of their experiences together was a boost to each of them.
"What I love about them is that they made me better and I think I helped make them better," Suzanne said. "We all helped each other rise. I think in the multiplication of people doing things you get a great sense of what is possible, like with a team."
Joe and Suzanne paid close attention to helping the boys develop individually. Joe would often take them out separately to do an activity that they chose. Though they are similar at the core, Suzanne can easily distinguish between their personalities. She said Peter is a great connector of people, Joey is very calm and balanced, and Alexander is the one to speak the truth and cut to the chase.
It was bittersweet when the boys left for college, but the last four years have been an exciting new chapter for the family.
Alexander was originally the one who wanted to go into the military. However, after enjoying successful junior and senior seasons in football at Charlotte Catholic, he wanted to continue playing the sport in college.
The family has roots in Greater Boston. Mr. LaPiana was born in Somerville and many members of his family still live there. Before moving to Charlotte, they lived in Marshfield for a year and still have a beach house there. Having a familiarity with Tufts, Alexander made an inquiry to the football program and was invited to the team's summer camp. He performed well and received an offer to join the Jumbos.
After 19 years of living with a pair of brothers every single day, he was on his own. He expected his first semester to be difficult. However, he quickly found out that he had many new brothers as teammates on the Jumbo football team.
"I went from one support system with my brothers and I came in and I had 30 dudes in my class right away that I knew were going to be my guys," Alexander said. "The team as a whole as you get to know them form really close relationships and were a fantastic support group. It made the transition a hundred times easier."
Alexander started at cornerback in the first game of his Tufts career and hasn't left the starting line-up since. He's also been successful as the team's punter for the last two seasons. He is part of a senior class that is establishing one of the most successful eras in the history of Jumbo Football. Entering today's game against Williams College, Tufts has a 22-8 record since Alexander and his classmates arrived on campus.
His support system at home remains strong even while he's at Tufts. Joe and Suzanne come to games regularly, and his brothers watch the webcasts as often as they can.
"At 5'8", 175 pounds, Alexander has maxed out his frame and plays like he is 6'2", 215," Peter said. "To start as a freshman and play every game of your career you must have outstanding football IQ. The way he reads the field and makes a play on the ball is incredible. He's a D1 talent."
Growing up together made Joey, Peter and Alexander LaPiana who they are today. Their futures are bright and their parents are proud. In fact, when asked why his parents didn't have more children, Alexander – like his mom said about him – cut to the chase.
"I think my parents were done after that," he said. "I don't think they were expecting three, but they're very happy with the way it all turned out."
Written by Paul Sweeney, Director of Athletic Communications