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April 27, 2017

Frank And The Gang

Virtually every pro football player has an interesting backstory and 2017 BC Lions mini-camp is certainly no exception.

There is Tyler Davis, who spent two seasons catching passes and returning kicks in Germany.

Defensive end David Perkins is famous for tackling the Ohio State Buckeyes’ mascot during a team scrimmage.

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Levi Norwood and Marquis Jackson both have brothers- Jordan and Malik respectively- that were members of the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl championship squad two seasons ago.

Then there are tales like that of defensive lineman Frank Alexander.

After a remarkable four years at Oklahoma, where he helped the Sooners reach the 2009 BCS Championship Game against Florida, Alexander was a fourth round selection of the Carolina Panthers in 2012.

It all came crashing down when a  fourth violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy resulted in a one-year suspension. This came on the heels of a torn Achilles tendon suffered in a pre-season game against Miami in August of 2015.

After seeking help for his problems with marijuana, Alexander is just grateful to be strapping on the pads again. And he won’t use the word “redemption” when asked about his motivation to migrate north.

“I’m not trying to put too much pressure on myself, “said Alexander after Thursday’s practice in Surrey.

“I’ve been playing football since I was five so the thing I know about is just getting back out here and getting in the rhythm and then it’s all about execution. I just want to play football. Everything else that happened, happened.”

Alexander Hero

If first impressions are important, then Lions fans can be in for a real treat. Alexander is a beast. At 6’4 and 270 pounds is has shown all the explosiveness you want in a defensive lineman.

“When I am on the field I am a different person. Off of at I am a gentle giant,” said Alexander with a chuckle.

Perkins, Jackson, Ken Boatright, Louis Palmer, Luther Maddy and Josh Shirley are all dealing with the same adjustments to the Canadian game with second-year man Andrew Hudson there to guide them along.

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“That one yard of the ball doesn’t seem like a big adjustment but it is, ” explained Alexander.

“They have made their adjustments, “ said defensive coordinator Mark Washington.

“The biggest thing is you don’t want to become a mental block for them. You want them to get it and let it become a part of what they do naturally. They get it and they have been progressing well.”

Director of US Scouting Ryan Rigmaiden believes at least four of these defensive linemen can start for the team right away. Obviously that won’t happen, but as the club aims to replace Alex Bazzie and add even more depth to an always-important position, the offseason recruits are all that more critical to success in 2017.

That’s extra important when you consider Wally Buono always preaches the importance of winning the line of scrimmage.

Washington wants his unit to be more aggressive and force more turnovers this season. Having guys of Alexander’s ilk is certainly a good starting point.

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“Frank has been aggressive. He’s an imposing player and imposing figure. Very quick and powerful and I am looking forward to seeing him some more,” added Washington.

No matter how it ended for the Zachary, Louisiana product in Carolina, he will always be treasure the opportunity he had to suit up in 29 games.

“It was amazing. My Aunt took me to Carolina when I was in seventh grade and I never thought I would end up being drafted there. I guess it wound up being a blessing in disguise. The guys, the staff and the entire atmosphere there were all welcoming.”

He may very well have aspirations to head back to the NFL at some point but at the moment Alexander is focused on taking this momentum into main camp and earning a spot on the roster.

“I’m just thankful to coach Wally and the staff for believing in me and giving me another opportunity. They didn’t have to do that especially seeing as I was out the last two years. There wasn’t much film after the injury so they took a chance.”

Mini-Camp Day Two Notes

Backfield Intact:

Running back Amir Carlisle was taking part in full drills after missing opening day due to a concussion sustained in a car accident earlier this week. He was the last offensive player added to the roster on Tuesday. Former German League standout Davis took some reps at the position along with Josh Harris.

Clarke Full Speed:

Steven Clarke has not looked out of place in his first practices since suffering his season-ending knee injury last August. He also looks to be comfortable at the free safety position

Scuffle Leads To Bonding:

Jackson and David Foucault got into a minor scuffle during linemen one-on-one drills but were quickly separated. Buono brought them up in front of the group before the end of practice and commended them for their intensity to the drill. The other 36 players understood what happens on the field is all about battling hard.

Athleticism All-Around:

Both sides of the ball performed excellent in the ‘Skelly’ drill. The play of the day went to Montario Hunter who made an excellent diving grab on a ball thrown by Bryan Scott.

Matt Baker: mbaker@bclions.com