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May 13, 2017

Morris: Lions’ tryout the latest test for Frank Alexander

BCLions.com

People are tested in different ways.

Back in 2015, defensive end Frank Alexander, then a member of the NFL Carolina Panthers, was recovering from surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon. He was home celebrating his six-year-old daughter’s birthday when she “put me to the maximum test.”

Alexander’s daughter took off running toward the street.

“I had to take off and run after her,” Alexander said during a break at a recent BC Lions mini-camp. “It was either my daughter or my Achilles.

“Once I took off and ran it didn’t hurt. That’s when I started building confidence and I was good.”

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BCLions.com

Lions defensive end Frank Alexander during the team’s three-day mini-camp in April (BCLions.com)

Coming to play in the CFL could be considered another test for Alexander.

The 27-year-old native of Zachary, La. was picked by Carolina in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft after playing at Oklahoma. He would play in 29 games over the next four season with the Panthers but was suspended three times for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. The third suspension was for a year without pay.

Signing with the Lions gives the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Alexander a second chance at football.

“It’s definitely a chance to get back into it,” he said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity. I’m just going to do whatever I can do to help better the team.

“I’m not trying to come in and take over or anything. I just want to come in, do my job, and help the Lions win some games.”

In an interview with the Charlotte Observer, Alexander said his suspensions were for marijuana which he used to help heal and relax from injuries.

“I didn’t do it before I went to work,” he told the newspaper. “I didn’t do it at work. It was simply like after I got out of practice, I wanted to kind of relax and chill.

“It kind of healed my body up. It wasn’t like a thing I was doing all the time. I didn’t need it to get up and go.”

When talking after a training session at the min-camp, Alexander was friendly and polite. He called the person interviewing him sir. He was impressed by the mountains in the background and the nearby beach. He said coming to Vancouver “was an opportunity for getting to say I have been to another place.”

“I know I’m not a bad person. I know I didn’t do nothing wrong. The only thing I have to do is be the best Frank Alexander I can be.”

Frank Alexander on having something to prove

Wally Buono, the Lions’ head coach and general manager, said the CFL doesn’t test for marijuana and the federal government is taking steps to legalize it.

“Everything we have gotten from everybody, he is a good guy,” said Buono. “He’s been very pleasant to be around, very personable.

“He’s a very good football player. Those kinds of guys, when you have them, you have to make sure you steer them the right way.”

Alexander said he’s learned from the suspensions and wants to put the past behind him.

“You have to take something from everything in life,” he said. “You have to be able to learn . . . go through it and let it go. That’s when you start to grow.

“If I keep holding onto it, it’s going to keep dragging me and pulling me down. I’m just thankful for this opportunity.”

With his speed and size, the Lions are looking at Alexander as a potential rush end.

“The thing you have to be impressed with guys like Frank, football is natural for him,” said Buono. “You watch how quickly he can counter move, how quickly he can do certain things.”

During the mini-camp, Alexander got his first taste of playing against Canadian offensive linemen and lining up a yard off the ball.

“You can never under-estimate your opponent,” he said. “He might be a little bit smaller but he might pack a big punch.

“Being one yard off the ball is different from what you have been taught since whenever you started playing football. With the game of football, you have to adjust to situations.”

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

Lions head coach and general manager Wally Buono sees potential in Alexander (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

Buono likes the attitude Alexander has shown.

“You can tell he is still a very good football player,” he said. “He’s really happy to be here.

“He sees this as a good opportunity. I like the persona and the personality.”

Some players come into the CFL carrying a chip on their shoulder. They want to prove they can still play in the NFL.

Alexander says there is only one person he has anything to prove to.

“It’s nothing about proving nothing to” the NFL, he said. “The thing is, I have to prove it to myself.

“I know I’m not a bad person. I know I didn’t do nothing wrong. The only thing I have to do is be the best Frank Alexander I can be.”