Minnesota Vikings CB Mackensie Alexander is ready to prove he's a first-round talent

Cornerback Mackensie Alexander has spent much of his life overcoming obstacles. The NFL will be the next life challenge that he will take head on with confidence.

At this year’s NFL Scouting Combine, for a guy who didn’t run or do position drills, Clemson cornerback and the newest member of the Minnesota VikingsMackensie Alexander, got a lot of attention.

As part of the media session in Indianapolis, Alexander was surrounded by reporters and proclaimed himself the best cornerback in the draft. Despite being undersized by NFL prototypical cornerback standards at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Alexander was one of the highest-rated prospects in the draft because of his work ethic, his competitive nature and his confidence.

“I get the confidence because of where I come from,” Alexander said. “You only gain confidence if you work at it. If you know you put in the work and go out and compete, that’s where the confidence comes from – working out every day and grinding. Just having a sick work ethic, that’s what I have. My parents instilled that in me, so that’s where my confidence comes from.”

Where he comes from is a place where there isn’t a lot of hope – Immokalee, Fla. A farming community, it is one of the poorest towns in the country and the population is made up largely of immigrants who work the farm fields for long hours and short pay.

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Among those were his parents, Jean and Marie, who came to the United States from Haiti. Like many immigrants, they came to the U.S. seeking a better life for their son than they endured.

As much as being drafted to the NFL means to Alexander, it means plenty to his family and the close-knit community from where he hails.

“It means a lot,” Alexander said. “It’s bigger than me. It’s for my town, my community, the Haitian folks, the Mexican folks. Lord knows every morning we get up and go to work. I watched my parents pick oranges and tomatoes, that’s how we used to do it. For me, I grew up around people who just work, work, work. That’s what my town – Immokalee – teaches you to work and ascribe for something. There’s nothing around but for to you work – go in the hot sun and pick tomatoes and pick oranges and work at the factory. When you’re around a bunch of immigrants, they don’t have any choice but to go and do those jobs. It was important for my family to bring me here and have me here so I can do better for myself and eventually help them out.”

While brimming with confidence, there have been a couple of things working against Alexander throughout his college career. The most glaring is on the stat sheet. In two years as a starter at Clemson, he never had an interception, despite being asked to shadow a team’s top receiver.

His job was to negate the opponent’s go-to threat, which included 2016 draft picks Will Fuller and Sterling Shepard.

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“I was asked to follow the best receivers every week and eliminate them from their game plan and win those matchups,” Alexander said. “Also, I was asked to play inside in zone (coverage). Whatever the Vikings want me to do, I’m ready for it. I’m just going to be open to whatever they ask me to do and be ready for it.”

What the numbers didn’t say is that Alexander has done an outstanding job of taking away a team’s top threat and the numbers that matter to scouts are in his ability to shut those players down.

Opposing quarterbacks threw Alexander’s way just 12.5 percent of plays and had a completion percentage is just 35 percent with an average of less than six yards per attempt. But the lack of interceptions was one of the big knocks against him in the draft process.

“Picks matter because they’re turnovers,” Alexander said. “But when teams throw in a game plan where they’re scheduled to throw away from you, you really can’t (get interceptions). If that’s a knock on me, that’s fine. I’ve got a home now, so it doesn’t matter.”

Alexander has no shortage of confidence in his skills and is looking to come in and compete immediately for playing time.

He is especially excited about playing alongside veteran Terence Newman, who has served as a coach on the field with the Vikings' young secondary. He is ready to learn from the veteran and absorb knowledge like a sponge as he becomes the latest in a long list of defensive backs that have been groomed in Mike Zimmer's defense.

“I know that Newman has been in the game for a long time and I’m eager to learn from him,” Alexander said. “He’s a vet and he’s playing for a long time. I’m eager to sit behind him to learn and soak it all up. I guy like that, that’s who you learn from.”

Several mock drafts viewed Alexander as a first-round prospect despite his lack of height. He has been no stranger to fighting against the odds, overcoming adversity and being willing to put in the extra effort to get the job at hand done.

While he was shocked he didn’t go earlier, he’s taking the perceived sleight in stride and is ready to make the best of his situation, help his family realize its dream and get started in the next chapter of his life without looking back with any regret.

“I am surprised, but I’m a Viking now,” Alexander said. “I’ve moved on from it. It’s time to be ready to go and compete and get to know my players and win games. I’m past that. I should have, but I move on quick. At the cornerback position, you have to be able to eliminate thoughts and be able to play ball.”


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