Over the summer I was fortunate enough to sit down with Bills’ linebacker, Lorenzo Alexander. Sometimes as fans, we forget that every player in the NFL has a unique story that makes them who they are today. I was able to talk with Alexander for a couple of hours and see how he made himself into the Pro Bowl player, and more importantly, the selfless man he is today.
Lorenzo Alexander was an undrafted free agent out of Cal when he entered the NFL and he credits his three core values as the main reasons he has been able to carve out a successful career: faith, family and service.
Alexander was a teammate of NFL safety Sean Taylor when he was with the Washington Redskins in 2006 and 2007. Taylor’s sudden and tragic death is what Alexander says triggered his refined look at life and living it for God.
“God is at the center of everything is my life, it hasn’t always been like that but once I got to the NFL I found my faith,” said Alexander. “I really tried to live a life that is worthy of his praise every single day and I think by doing that, it naturally trickles into every facet of my life.”
As his career started to settle down in Washington, he was lucky enough to have great mentors around him to help him take his game to the next level. Whether it was Chris Samuels, who was a six-time Pro Bowler on the offensive line, Andre Carter, who was a Pro Bowler on the defensive line and is currently the assistant defensive line coach with the Miami Dolphins, former Buffalo Bill linebacker London Fletcher who helped him make the switch to outside linebacker, plus many more. Along with those veterans, Kedric Golston, who is Alexander’s best friend, and Alexander pushed each other to the next level as their careers progressed.
Growing up in Oakland, California, Alexander wasn’t traditionally raised by his father. While he dad was absent from his life for periods of time, Alexander’s uncle stepped up and took over the father role in which Alexander is grateful for. Alexander says that so many times young men lack that father figure in their life to push them to be the best they can be and he was fortunate enough to have that support from someone other than his immediate family.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have somebody at each step of my life to step out and go above and beyond with what their duty was. When I was a young man growing up in Oakland, that was my Uncle Steve, who really filled that father void for me. I knew who my dad was but he wasn’t in my life at the capacity that you think a father should be. We are great now and I think he does a great job with my younger brothers and sisters now but when I was 7, 8, 9 and 10 all throughout high school, he wasn’t there like my uncle was.”
Service within the community, helping his peers, family and friends is an aspect of Alexander’s life that he prides himself on. ACES is a foundation that Alexander is a founding member and current president of. ACES gives back to the youth and provides them with opportunities to follow their dreams with their mission statement:
“Our mission is to support youth through emphasizing Accountability, taking pride in our Community, striving for Educational excellence while promoting a healthy mind, body and spirit through Sports.”
Alexander is constantly giving back to his community and his ACES Foundation is a huge contributing factor in the work that he does.
“It stems out of standing on the shoulders of the multitude of individuals and what I have tried to do with the platform I’ve been given with the NFL is mimic that and give back and fill the gap, especially in inner cities in this country,” Alexander said. “When you go to them, they are all facing the same issues; their resources, financial income, safe environments, poor schools, drug infested gangs. Those are the general issues that young men and women face growing up today in the inner cities. I try to close that gap as best I can because all these kids have great ability and talent to be great and I know this because I grew up with a ton of cats that were way more talented but for one reason or another, whether is being poor homes, finances, having to take care of brothers and sisters, they turned a different path. Whether it’s selling drugs, in gangs, not going to school, whatever it may be they just end up wasting themselves. You could see their raw ability, especially athletically and even academically. My cousin comes to mind because he fell in this realm, he ended up serving ten years in prison and you kind of get on that track. We could have easily switched positions and that shows how small of a gap there is between being in jail or being successful, whatever being successful means. So, I try to minimize that as much as I can and try to impact as many kids as I can because a lot of those kids don’t have people around them telling them about the sacrifice and the accountability so that you can have a nice car, a job, a nice house, a wife, a family and be able to give back without looking over your shoulder.”
Alexander doesn’t stop with his own foundation, he lends his hand in service to multiple platforms to help the community. He has extended his helping hand to The American Diabetes Association, Playworks, The Kidney Foundation, and the Douglas J Green Foundation among many others. Alexander tries to get connected in places where it is accessible for him to help as many people as possible. Places like Buffalo, Washington, Arizona where he isn’t from but knows enough people and has enough resources to touch as many lives as he can. Specifically, in Buffalo, Alexander has partnered with the Belle Center and South Park High School.
Being an NFL player can be tough on players and their families during the season, spending more hours than usual away from each other. Alexander acknowledges that and thanks his wife, Manjanique, for making that transition easier for him and his family so he can still serve his community while being away from home.
“I’ve learned to say no to some things because I love to serve and do a lot of things but fortunately I have married up and my wife has done a great job of giving me the freedom and ability to do those things because she does a great job of managing the household. Because of what she is and who she is and what she’s able to do, I have the ability to impact the community a lot better because she can do a lot and it’s amazing to see her do it.”