It's been nearly a decade since former Nebraska I-back Dan Alexander was powering his way through defenses for the Huskers, but that doesn't mean his days of punishing defenders are over.
Now a member of the Alabama Vipers of the Arena Football League, Alexander still straps on his helmet and pads just as he did for five years in Lincoln when he earned first-team all-conference honors as a senior in 2000.
In our second installment of "Where are they now?" HuskersIllustrated.com caught up with Alexander to get an update on the former NU back and current AFL star.
What stands out most about your time at Nebraska?
"Just really some of the talks I was able to have Coach Osborne and Ron Brown and even Turner Gill. Those were three really good Christian mentors for me. Also all the mentoring programs I did while I was there. When I really look back, those are kind of the things I miss the most, just the Godly mentors I had at Nebraska. It seemed like everyone I came across, they were all just great men that I could look up to and emulate as I was growing into a young man. Football-wise, I definitely miss the day when it was all about fun. It was still a business there at Nebraska even, but it still was fun. You had a whole bunch of teammates and a whole bunch of fun, and were just able to really have a fan base that was awesome and supported us no matter what, win or lose. It was just some good times being a part of that football program."
Coach Brown has been back a couple years now. Have you stayed in contact much with him or any of your old teammates?
"Not very much. I was up there recently, so we're kind of getting back in touch a little bit. But not a whole bunch recently. But he's definitely one of the guys I look up to and hope to continue that relationship well into the future. I just got on Facebook here recently, so I've started to run into some guys that I used to play with, so I'm starting to get back in touch. Really, there aren't too many guys I'm in touch with right now. The person I've seen the most recently is (Kyle) Vanden Bosch because he's been living in Nashville. But now he's about to leave town also. Vanden Bosch is really the only one I've had even limited contact with the last little bit here, but like I said, there are some other people I'm just starting to get back in contact with. Really, as the years went by and I got more and more invested into the Nashville area, I just lost a lot of contact with those guys. But I'm trying to get back in touch. Steve Warren is another guy I've seen because we have some things in common with charity organizations."
|Where are they now? |
|Player: Dan Alexander, 1996-2000 |
Current city: Franklin, Tenn.
Family: Wife: Amy; Son: Braxton (3).
Current profession: Outside of football, Alexander works in selling commercial real estate and became the executive director of Franktown Open Hearts, which works with and provides for underprivileged young men in the Franklin and Nashville area. He volunteered with the charity organization for several years before being named executive director earlier this year.
Professional career: Alexander is the starting fullback and linebacker of the Arena Football League's Alabama Vipers, which he joined this season after a year out of football. He also played for the AFL's Nashville Kats and Chicago Rush from 2005-08 before the league temporarily folded following the '08 season. After Nebraska, Alexander was selected in the sixth round by the Tennessee Titans, where he played one season. He then spent a year with the Jacksonville Jaguars in '02 and then a year with the St. Louis Rams in '03 before moving to the AFL.
NU career accomplishments: Alexander was a four-year letterman at Nebraska, as he rushed for 2,456 yards and 20 touchdowns in 38 career games. He was named the Offensive MVP of the 2000 Alamo Bowl after rushing for a bowl-record record 240 yards in a 66-17 win over Northwestern. He was one of eight semifinalists for the 2000 Doak Walker Award, given annually to college football's top running back. He was voted First Team All-Big 12 as a senior by the conference coaches, and ended his career ranked 10th on NU's all-time career rushing chart.
I know you have your own team to worry about, but do you still follow Nebraska much anymore?
"Yeah, a little bit. I'm just happy to see kind of the reemergence. I was really happy to hear about the coaching staff change (with Bo Pelini). I was one of the people that was really upset when they had gotten rid of Solich. He was my running backs coach for my first two years and my head coach for three years, and I really felt like he got a raw deal. Then with all the program suffered through after that, it was great to see another Nebraska guy come in and take the reigns and start to rebound. It really made me feel good know there was just good leadership and the tradition that was there when I was there was coming back."
Have you followed all these rumors of Nebraska possibly going to the Big Ten? You actually played in both the Big Eight and Big 12, so switching up conferences isn't all that new to you, right?
"I hear those rumors. You know, whatever is good for the team. Obviously for me, playing in the Big 12 myself, I'd love for them to be able to stay there. But at the same time, I think if it's more publicity or more money and it's better for the school in general, then I'm all for it. I just think that Coach Osborne and everybody else that's there will have the brains and the smarts to make the best decision for the program. Sentimentally, I want to stay in the Big 12, but whatever works out best for the University I think is what's going to happen."
What was the hardest part about going from college and NFL football to the AFL?
"When I first moved over to Arena, it was a two-way game. So that was definitely the biggest adjustment. Even this last weekend, I started at linebacker and still played some fullback. So I'm still scoring touchdowns but I get to play defense and some special teams. It's different, because even in high school I didn't play a lot of special teams. I played some in the NFL, but it's gotten back to where now I'm the premier running back for my team, starting as a linebacker and playing special teams. So it's league where you need to know how to play all aspects of the game, and you can make a difference no matter what.
"The other big change is just the size of the field. As a running back, you think about the outdoor game and there's all kinds of reverses, swings or even things like the option, and those things are just not very practical in the indoor game. There's just not enough field. It's definitely a game that's way more geared towards my style of running, which is up field. There's not a lot of cuts and not a lot of opportunities to make people miss, so you just put your head down and run downhill. I think that's what has allowed me to be successful in the Arena Football League. That's primarily how I played at Nebraska, and the skills I learned there carried over to the Arena league."
Have there been any Husker running backs you've especially enjoyed watching since you moved on?
"I follow more how the team is doing. I'm way more into the personal relationships, so sometimes I just watch games when I know somebody that's playing. I think as the years have gone by and I know less coaches and less players, I haven't watched as much. I watched the guys I helped mentor when I was at Nebraska, like Dahrran Diedrick Diedrick and those kind of guys that were there when I was there. Really those are the last guys I've followed closely. Like I said, when the whole coaching staff turned over after Solich, I lost a lot of appetite for the game in watching what was going on. I was following the team, but I wasn't really following any individual players or coaches because it was just so different from what I was used to."
Do you have any plans on getting back to Lincoln for a game any time soon?
"Definitely, I would love to. Work permitting is really the only thing that's kept me back. But definitely, every year I keep telling myself I'm going to do it, but I think this is the year. This is the year I've got to get back. There's a lot more people up there that I knew before, and there's still a lot of the old staff that's still around within the Hewitt Center and academics, and Ron Brown being back there, I just feel like it's a homecoming for me to get back this year with how everything is growing and progressing. I'm excited. I'm excited to get up there and be a part of it this year."
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