Alex Mack: Avoiding the Attention

The life of an NFL center is all about hard work and decidedly not about the spotlight. Alex Mack knows it, and wants nothing else...

Centers, such as Alex Mack, the Cleveland Browns' first-round pick in this year's NFL Draft, don't like to be their position when it comes to the off-the-field things.

Say what? That seemingly doesn't make sense.

Sure it does, if you think about it. Quite simply, centers don't like to be the center of attention.

They like to fly under the radar in every way, shape and form. When they're in the spotlight, it's not comfortable, nor does it bode well for their career.

Older Browns fans will remember Steve Everett, who preceded Mack as a center drafted by the Browns in the first round. Taken in 1993, the Michigan product, though friendly and likeable, avoided attention like the plague. He just wanted to play football. Let the skill position players do the interviews and TV commercials.

That's the way it is with all offensive linemen. With them, no news, at least as it applies to them, is good news.

Everett played well for the Browns in the three seasons he was with them before the franchise moved to Baltimore, and that includes his rookie year.

But with one exception.

Late in that 1993 season in a game against the Houston Oilers at the Astrodome, he missed a block on a key running play in the fourth quarter. That caused running back Eric Metcalf to be tackled for no gain when, with the hole he had, he should have run for a touchdown. In fact, he had so much that he could still be running.

The result was a hard-to-swallow 19-17 loss that kept the sagging Browns from springing a major upset.

When confronted afterward about the error, Everett did not react well at all, getting mad to the point of being almost belligerent. It was the only time he acted out of character.

Current Browns left tackle Joe Thomas related a similar story last season, coming to the same conclusion: It's best when no one knows who the offensive linemen are.

When told about the Thomas tale over the weekend in the Browns rookie minicamp, Mack laughed and said, "I'll take his word for it."

Mack was smiling as he stood in front of his locker. In shorts and a t-shirt as he was getting ready for practice, he was in his element.

He admitted he was not in his element on the second day of the draft when he had his introductory press conference in Berea. All the lights, cameras and tape recorders made him uneasy.

"Offensive linemen aren't used to all that," Mack said. "But the difference between Sunday and yesterday didn't surprise me, because I knew it wasn't going to continue to be fun and games. It's not going to be all glamour."

Mack is here to work. He knows he has to.

"Everybody who is in this camp, regardless of how they got here, starts over now" he said. "Everybody starts at ground zero and works their way up.

"I think it's going to be a grind for me all the way up until the start of training camp. I have a lot of catching up to do, learning the playbook."

According to Mack, that -- learning the playbook -- is the biggest difference he has found thus far from college to the NFL.

"They give you a play and expect you to know it," he said. "It's like, ‘OK, here's the play. Now go run it.' And if you don't run it right -- if you don't do the job -- they get you out of there and give someone else a chance."

Mack doesn't plan to be supplanted by anyone. He's willing to do whatever it takes -- that is, he's willing to put in as much time and effort as is necessary -- to make it. It's who he is.

"It's always been something with me that if you're going to do something, you should try to do it well," he said. "A good work ethic is something my coaches and teachers have taught me."

With his talent and smarts (he has already graduated from Cal), if he continues to adhere to that mantra about work, Alex Mack may seldom have to worry about being the center of attention.

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