He'll Roc your world

Roc Alexander has been making waves this year, both as a cornerback and as a kickoff return specialist. As the sophomore from Colorado Springs, Colorado, returned a kick during the 2001 Spring Game, Husky fans gasped at his acceleration.

Alexander was considered raw as a true freshman but Cornerbacks Coach Chuck Heater knew what he was getting when Roc chose the Huskies over Kansas State.

"He's a gem. Once we get some polish on him and let him play, he's going to be great," said Heater.

Washington was able to bring him along slowly and let him play a few snaps while he learned and perfected his technique. As the season progressed, so did Alexander's productivity. By the end of the campaign and in the Rose Bowl, Heater had a bona fide Pac-10 corner with world-class speed.

With only one year in the program, Alexander went from being a fast kid with potential to a quality defensive back that could soon start.

Alexander remembers when Washington was recruiting him. He had an inkling that he wouldn't be redshirting once he arrived in Seattle. "In the off-season my coach told me that I would probably get a chance to play because there were a lot of injuries and eligibility issues," Roc said after practice yesterday. "Still, it was a little bit of a surprise to come up and play my first year. I learned a lot and I'm still learning. I just came up here to work hard, and that's what I'm doing."

It wasn't until the Huskies made it to Pasadena that Alexander got his opportunity to shine in the national spotlight. He made sure the lights shone brightly as he battled experienced Purdue receivers and held his own.

"The Rose Bowl experience for me was a great deal because it was the first chance that I got a lot of reps in a game," he said. "It was unbelievable seeing all the people in the stands and then to go out and play and have fun with the team was something special."

Alexander finished the game with four tackles, two passes broken up and two kick returns for 20 yards. More importantly, he showed he could come up with a big defensive stop when needed, stifling a potent Purdue Boilermaker attack twice in the second half with back-to-back stops on third down, causing the men in gold and black to punt.

Now that he has some significant experience to draw on, Roc just wants to keep getting better. "I just expect to go out there this year and play to the level I can play at, to the best of my abilities," he said. "I've learned a lot from the players and coaches, a lot more than I ever knew in high school. I'm just going out there and going after it hard, as hard as I can."

His 'abilities' also include the ability to run faster than any other current Husky on the roster. This spring, Alexander went out during testing and clocked a mind-blowing 4.20 for the 40. He was even a little shocked at the result.

"Well, I warmed up on the track a little bit and then just went out and ran it," Roc said modestly. "I didn't know I was going to run something like that, but I just came out and ran it. I had to look twice to make sure it was right, but I saw it and said, 'Yeah, that's me.' It was crazy."

Roc was right on schedule this fall, working hard to fill the other corner spot opposite senior DB Omare Lowe. Then he hurt his shoulder in Olympia on an inconspicuous play. "It wasn't a fluke or anything," said Alexander. "I have a history of shoulder injuries. I had a couple in high school. All I did was try to slap the ball out of Reggie's hands and it popped out of it's socket. He didn't even touch me. As soon as I hit the ground, I knew what happened. It's happened before."

Despite his history of shoulder woes, Alexader expects to be 100% for the home opener against Michigan. "I feel good right now. It's healed fast and I just want to get back in there and compete, get back in there and do the things I miss. I just want to get back and play and get ready to go. I started hitting on it a little bit yesterday and it felt pretty good."

Alexander took off the red jersey that indicates an injury, and is now attempting to lock down the starting corner job. It could happen.

"I really don't know. I guess because I was out for a while I've got to work my way back up the depth chart."

Offensive Student Coach Doug Clark said of Alexander, "The receivers all hate getting hit by him. He is a tough guy and he always gets a knuckle, knee, or elbow on you when he hits you. They really hate getting hit by Roc."

One thing is for sure; speed never slumps, and Roc's work returning kicks will almost assuredly get him on the Husky Stadium field turf on September 8th.

"I love to do that too. I really like returning kicks. I'd be really happy if I did that during the Michigan game."

Husky fans should be excited thinking about the prospects of having a 4.2 sprinter standing next to Paul Arnold, who runs a 4.4, awaiting to return kickoffs. It also excites young Mr. Alexander.

"That's a pretty lethal combination already. That sounds good to me!"

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