View Full Version : Making a Splash

06-23-2010, 07:17 PM
Making a Splash

By Eric Detweiler

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Garnering attention on the practice field can be a challenge for a rookie college free agent.

On a mid-May afternoon at Dove Valley, Wesley Woodyard noticed Kevin Alexander.

As Woodyard recalls, Alexander had earned time with the first team kick-off coverage unit early into the voluntary workout. As some players bowed out of the drill, the Clemson product kept hustling.

Soon, Alexander was taking every rep, sprinting downfield with game-like intensity during the non-contact drill. After reaching the other end of the field, the linebacker readied to do it all again.

For Woodyard, a former college free agent who rose to become a captain in his second season as a Bronco, it was a refreshing sight. Here, he thought, was a youngster who understands what it takes to be a pro.

"You have to admire a guy like him -- any guy in our situation that comes in and continues to fight every day," Woodyard said. "The thing about him, he was really smart. That caught a lot of players' eyes."

By all accounts, Alexander kept that attitude and only continued that hard work through OTAs. Recently, the 6-foot-4, 265-pound linebacker started reaping the rewards.

Alexander saw extensive action with the first-team defense during the team's recently completed mandatory minicamp. With more than a month to wait before his first training camp, Alexander hopes he can parlay his early impact into a spot on the 53-man roster.

"I knew when the opportunity came I was going to have to jump at it," Alexander said recently. "When the opportunity came, I went with it. Hopefully, I can just keep going."

Part of the hard-working attitude that impressed Woodyard is likely a product of Alexander's background. The 22-year old has always shared the spotlight.

Coming out of Florida's Union County High School, teammate C.J. Spiller gained much of the publicity. After following Spiller to Clemson, Alexander tried to carve out his niche on a star-studded defense that featured heralded defensive ends Ricky Sapp and Da'Quan Bowers.

For the high school defensive end, that meant spending some time as a Tiger learning to play linebacker, which he said has eased his transition to an NFL defense.

While Buffalo made Spiller a first round selection and Sapp went to the Eagles in the fifth round in this year's draft, Alexander signed with the Broncos knowing he'd have to earn any fanfare with his work on the practice field.

Alexander acknowledged he was nervous when defensive coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale gave him his first shot to work with the first team toward the end of the Broncos' June passing camp, but he quickly realized the opportunity was too important to let nerves get in the way.

Alexander has relished the chance to learn from his practice film. He credited Woodyard and Mario Haggan, a former seventh-round pick, with keeping him positive and making him feel like he belongs on a defense with several All-Pros.

Woodyard, who saw time in all 16 games last season, said he knows from experience that projecting self-confidence by communicating on the field is the best way to impress the veterans.

In Alexander's words, "Don't act like a rookie."

"When you're in that situation, you tend to think too much more when we get out there instead of relaxing and playing," Woodyard said. "You've just got to go out there with the confidence that you belong out there, and Kevin's definitely shown that several times."

Now Alexander is focused on building off his experience, saying the first-team reps just drive him to want more.

While first-team practice reps will be even harder to come by once training camp begins, the youngster thinks his versatility and ability to contribute on special teams will be big assets going forward.

It's understandable why the rookie's outlook makes him sound wise beyond his years with role models such as Woodyard and Haggan to guide him.

With training camp looming, Alexander said he can't afford to deviate from his current path if he wants to make the team.

"It was basically hard work that got me here," Alexander said. "I've got to keep working, stay focused, keep my head in the playbook and when my opportunities come just show what I've got."

06-23-2010, 07:21 PM
The next HIXON?

06-23-2010, 08:07 PM
Hopefully the next Woodyard

06-23-2010, 08:13 PM
Hopefully the next Woodyard

Or Woodyard upgrade.