Alexander: Rushing towards the goal
Shaun Alexander remembers
the faces, the appreciative smiles. He remembers the eyes of the
families lined up single file, eagerly waiting for a Thanksgiving
dinner. He remembers the hands of the shabbily dressed children
reaching for gifts on Christmas.
Mostly, he remembers his mother,
the divorced parent who drove her two young sons across town to the community
center to help pass out some happiness, to share in hope.
memory: his mother, helping.
And that’s why Alexander,
the NFL’s record holder for the most touchdowns scored in a half, doesn’t
run to merely score touchdowns, or to simply pile up yardage as he did last
season when he smashed through the Oakland Raiders defense for 266 yards (the
fourth-best rushing performance ever). He also runs because it allows him
to help others.
Two years ago, Alexander used some
of his $3.8 million signing bonus from the Seattle Seahawks to start a foundation
that assists single-parent families.
“I play football to make
a difference in their lives,” Alexander says. “It’s not
just about football. It’s also about helping others.”
In his hometown of Florence, Ky.,
which is just outside of Cincinnati, and in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where he played
college football, Alexander has established a foundation that helps needy
families. If a family needs help paying the rent, electric bills or buying
school lunches and clothes, Alexander’s foundation is there. At Thanksgiving
the foundation provides turkey meals, and at Christmas families receive ham
dinners, wrapped gifts and a tree. Alexander has also started a college scholarship
“It’s all about giving
back,” Alexander says. But he adds, “You can’t out-give
Alexander’s parents divorced
when he was in fourth grade. His mother, Carol Alexander, was always generous
even though she squeezed apartment, food and utility payments out of her paycheck
from Procter & Gamble, where she fielded calls from customers.
“My mom was always helping
others,” Alexander says. “That’s where I learned about giving.
So, now that I’m tremendously blessed, I want to do what my mom always
Financial support and gifts are
not all that the staff at Alexander’s foundation passes along to its
recipients. Many times, staff members will share Scriptures and pray with
those seeking assistance. For Alexander, sharing his faith is better than
“What’s the best day
of my life?” he asks rhetorically. “It was the first time I led
somebody to Christ.”
That might be surprising to some
coming from a guy who scored five touchdowns in the first half
in a game against the Minnesota Vikings earlier this season. But
Alexander’s life has been filled with headline moments on
the football field, from the day he rushed for 345 yards in a
game as a junior in high school to when he broke loose for 291
yards and two touchdowns as a redshirt freshman at the University
Dick Vermeil, coach of the Kansas
City Chiefs, is impressed with Alexander’s peek-a-boo running style,
as he hides behind blockers while he makes his way upfield.
Different on and off the field.
Just like his unique running style, Alexander has never been one to do something
just because everyone else was doing it.
“I’m always the oddball
compared to everyone else,” he says. “That’s because I don’t
live by their rules. I go by God’s rules.”
Since he was a sophomore in high
school, Alexander has worn the No. 37 because his preferred number
(44) was already worn by a starting linebacker. To go along with
the number 37, he memorized a Bible verse that has helped shape
his life, Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord and
he will give you the desires of your heart” (NIV).
Gail Wood is a freelance writer
and veteran newspaper reporter living in the Seattle area.
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