Lorenzo Alexander starts his Player’s Tribune article with a personal sentiment and a statement of fact.
"My career has been … unusual," he wrote, and indeed it has been.
That's more of a tribute to this past season, where, at 33, Alexander, a longtime special teams stud and backup defender, collected career highs in just about every category – starting in all 16 games at linebacker, tallying 50 tackles and collecting 12.5 sacks – with the Buffalo Bills that earned him his second Pro Bowl selection and revived what could have been the final year of his career.
As such, Alexander opened up by revisiting each stop along his NFL journey – including six years with the Washington Redskins, the team that gave him his first real chance to play – and how that's shaped his perspective as a veteran in the league.
In fact, the realities and challenges of the NFL began almost immediately after college, when Alexander realized his fantasy of being drafted by his hometown 49ers and shaking the hand of the Commissioner wouldn't be coming true.
Instead he went undrafted, latched on with the Panthers for a year, then the Ravens, and was eventually cut. Then he joined the Redskins' practice squad in 2007.
"In the back of my mind, though, I thought that if it didn't work out in Washington, my next stop was probably going to be law school," he wrote. "I told myself that I would give it everything I had, but that I was also going to be realistic."
He was greeted by head coach Joe Gibbs, who ran the entire team through grueling practices, experiences that made him tougher and more willing to adapt to the roles that Washington wanted him to fill.
That would include offensive line, defensive line, fullback, tight end and special teams. He earned the nickname "One Man Gang," because of that versatility.
"I wasn't trying to earn a nickname," Alenxander wrote. "I was just looking for an opportunity. In the NFL, you're fortunate if you get one. If you get more than one, you're really lucky. It's a cutthroat business. There's always somebody gunning for your job. And for most of the early part of my career, I was the gunner."
Alexander's role grew when head coach Mike Shanahan came into the fold. He switched the defense to a 3-4 scheme and asked Alexander to learn outside linebacker. Alexander lost more weight, got into better shape and learned from linebacker London Fletcher, someone, he wrote, who taught him so much about football and life on their car rides to the stadium.
"I became a better football player because of what he taught me on the football field. I became a better father, a better husband and a better man because of what he taught me on those car rides."
The Redskins didn't re-sign him after the 2012 season, prompting him to bounce around to the Cardinals, where he would suffer a Lisfranc injury, and then the Raiders, where he found his explosiveness again.
He cashed in on it with Buffalo in 2016, and is hoping to prove he's not a "one-hit wonder."
"Most people don't understand how I've done it," Alexander finished. "But after reading this, I hope maybe you do. My career has not been a fairy tale, but I wouldn't change it for anything."