WATERVILLE — It took Eric Alexander four years before he earned a starting job for the Louisiana State University football team and, in his seven years in the NFL, the linebacker/special teamer started just one game.
But he played for two of the most celebrated coaches on the planet and has two championship rings to show for it. If anything, football has taught Alexander to persevere. He was cut and re-signed by the New England Patriots four times in six years from 2004-09, but he was on hand when the Pats beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2004 Super Bowl, albeit on the injured reserve list. And he was part of the team that went unbeaten until the Super Bowl in 2007.
“When we beat the Eagles, that was a great time,” he said. “Also the undefeated season.”
Today, at 31, Alexander is out of professional football, but still contributing to the game. Friday and today, he’s instructing boys and girls in grades 1-8 on the basics of the game at the 17th annual Central Maine Youth Football Clinic-Camp.
“You’ve got to make sure everyone is having fun,” Alexander said. “At this age you try not to get too technical and try to teach them the basics.”
Alexander, who teaches at Newton Elementary School in Massachusetts, is a member of the Patriots Alumni Club, of which former lineman Pete Brock is president.
“We still do a lot of things with the current Patriots and the Patriots organization,” he said. “But that’s as far as I go with being a Patriot.”
Alexander did run in this year’s Boston Marathon for the Patriots Charitable Foundation, but was stopped at the 25-mile mark when bombs went off near the finish line. He never got close enough to see what was going on that day, although, he’s glad he tackled the marathon.
“It’s always been something that was on my bucket list,” he said. “I admire endurance athletes.”
He had little to say about current Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who is embroiled in a murder investigation, but he retains a belief in the so-called “Patriot Way,” which has come under fire of late.
“Being a Patriot you’re expected to act a certain way on and off the field,” he said. “It’s not just an expectation the coaches have, but the players do, too.”
Alexander not only played for Bill Belichick in New England, but also for Nick Saban at LSU. After being a special teams player for three years, he started all 14 games for Saban and the Tigers who won the national championship in 2003. Alexander recorded eight solo tackles in the national championship game against Oklahoma. His only start for the Patriots was in a loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the 2006 AFC championship game.
Saban and Belichick are friends who often let their team’s performances do their talking for them. Their styles differ, somewhat. Saban is more vocal, while Belichick places more responsibility on his players.
“His way is to get us to be the most prepared team to win,” Alexander said. “They’re both great defensive football minds. They’re two of the greatest football minds in the game today.”
He felt close to most of his coaches, not just Belichick and Saban.
“Coaches were kind of like my second father,” he said. “I got taught how to be a leader, how to be a role model, how to be organized. All these things I’ll continue to use throughout my life.”
Gary Hawkins — 621-5638