The first episode of Hard Knocks premiered on HBO Tuesday night and it was predictable in that it introduced you to passionate Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell, and his passionate running back Jamaal Williams, and the team’s passionate staff of former NFL players turned assistant coaches.
(Yeah, it also introduced us to first-round pick Aidan Hutchinson who offered up a great effort in singing Billie Jean from Michael Jackson).
Now let me tell you someone the show didn’t introduce but may be preparing for future episodes if he keeps performing as a little-known recent addition to the team: Maurice Alexander.
You probably never heard of Alexander because he was only signed a week ago almost as an afterthought. And until that moment his only real moments in the spotlight came as a returner in the USFL with the Philadelphia Stars.
And before that as a playmaker at Florida International University in South Florida.
And before that as the quarterback at Booker T. Washington High, one of the many premier high school programs in Miami.
But you might soon see more of Alexander after he scored a touchdown on his first day in camp. And a couple of days ago, Hard Knocks producers noticed him enough that they put a microphone on him for future episodes.
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He’s probably going to be cast as the longshot hoping to make a play and leave a mark.
It’s a role Alexander is perfectly suited to play.
The Marco Rubio Connection
“Remind me to tell you the improbable story of Maurice Alexander,” United States Senator Marco Rubio (FL) told me a couple of months ago.
Alexander had just returned a punt 87 yards to send the Stars the USFL championship game. He would go on to be All-USFL as a returner. But that’s not where the story begins.
Earlier this year Alexander was working at Booker T. Washington and was a full two years out of football. He’d been injured his senior year at FIU and had no pro day or combine because COVID wiped those out in 2020.
So Rubio, who has been close to the Booker T. program since the time Alexander was the quarterback, hired him to work with his son Anthony, a Belen Jesuit running back and college hopeful, on route running.
That led Rubio to try to find Alexander an agent and get him drafted by the USFL, where Alexander led the league with a whopping 31.5 yards per kick return average.
“He was basically done,” Rubio said. “He was training my son on routes. He doesn’t have a car. But now they are putting a mic on him for Hard Knocks.”
When the Lions signed Alexander it was perfect because that’s a team trying to climb out of the NFL cellar. So it’s a team that’s offering opportunities.
“There’s a whole bunch of you that are competing for a roster spot,” Campbell told his players in their first meeting of training camp. “That’s reality.
“Don’t start doing the count game. Man, there’s 53 where do I fit? Don’t worry about it. Don’t even look at it. Just put your head down and go to work.”
That’s all Alexander knows to do. We’ll see how he does in the coming weeks.
“Being No. 90 on the camp roster isn’t a safe place but right now there are less than 3,000 on Earth on an NFL roster,” Rubio said Tuesday. “Only 2,200 will be on a roster or practice squad. Now he just has to beat out 800 guys.
“I wouldn’t bet against him.”
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero
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