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(the other) alexander the great

How many players make such a lasting impression on a fan that they can remember exactly where they were and what they were doing the moment this guy arrived on the scene? Not very many.

But there’s no doubt, when it comes to Lorenzo Alexander, the chubby-faced University of California alum, the exact moment when he etched his name into the memories of Redskins fans.

It was Saturday, August 11, and the ‘Skins were in Nashville to take on the Titans in an otherwise irrelevant preseason game. I, on the other hand, was at my buddy Dave’s house, enjoying an ice-cold Stone Mill Pale Ale while catching up with my old roommate. The rookie defensive tackle showed what he’s made of when he lost his helmet, but was still able to chase down Titans quarterback Tim Rattay. He collided with a teammate and ended up needing six stitches, but that one play may have been enough proof to the ‘Skins coaching staff that the former practice squad player was worthy of a roster spot while simultaneously earning him cult status among the rabid Redskins fanbase.

His response? “My mom’s just happy I have all my teeth,” Alexander said.

But that was only the beginning. Once he secured a place on the 53-man roster, Alexander continued his unlikely climb from former undrafted free agent to vital member of a playoff team. While he earned his place as a defensive tackle, the coaching staff saw something in the 6’1″ and 300 lb. defensive lineman. Next thing you know, Alexander is taking snaps in practice as the sixth offensive lineman in the team’s jumbo package.

For the season, Alexander was officially credited with four tackles in the 13 games he played in. But simple stats don’t do the man justice. By the time the season ended, Alexander played defensive tackle, offensive guard, tight end, fullback and special teams for the Redskins, making him a rare triple threat in the modern NFL. A Joe Gibbs team always needs players that are super smart who are willing to fight their guts out. Clearly, Alexander was meant to play for the Hall of Fame coach.

I was able to chat with Alexander after the heart-breaking loss to the Bills, and again after the ‘Skins season ended with a playoff loss to the Seahawks. I asked this guy for an interview less than a week after losing a friend and teammate to senseless violence and again minutes after his team’s season ended, and yet, both times I walked away thinking to myself that he’s a likable, stand-up guy. While others may be willing to make excuses or disappear from the locker room before the media is allowed in, Alexander was always available during both the good and the bad.

During this offseason, when I’ve seen Alexander around Redskins Park, I’ve often joked with him that I need to be his agent because he’s the hardest working man in the NFL, willing and able to play iron man football. He’s always laughs and says he enjoys playing both offense and defense, and that he hopes the team continues to let him go both ways.

And when he’s not at the Park, Lorenzo is still keeping busy. In June, he headed back home to California to host the Lorenzo Alexander ACES Foundation “Hold the Line” Football Camp, a free camp for 200 or so youngsters. It’s fitting Alexander would make time for the next generation of football players, because if we were making a list of players who these young men should model their games after, he’d definitely make the list.

(photo by Brian Murphy)
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