The Minnesota Vikings surprised a lot of people by selecting Clemson cornerback Mackensie Alexander in the second round of the 2016 draft. Cornerback was not really a pressing need for the Vikings, as they had all their starters from a year ago returning and they still have their first-round pick from 2015, Trae Waynes, to try and work into the defense.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is also known for liking big, lengthy cornerbacks and Alexander doesn’t really fit that mold. Zimmer thinks Alexander’s size is getting a little overblown, though, as is just under the prototypical size for his position.
“I see him as a defensive back - a corner and a nickel,” Zimmer said. “Maybe there’s a misinterpretation of size, but 5:105 (5-foot-10 and 5/8) is prototype, he’s 5:103, so it’s two tenths or something. So he’s not a little guy, he’s a smaller defensive back compared to some of the six -footers. (Terence) Newman’s 5:104.”
Alexander also finds it kind of funny that so many people are trying to make a big deal about his size because he knows what he is capable of. He was a shutdown corner in college and he believes that is something he is going to be able to translate over to the NFL, regardless of how tall he is.
“You can knock my size all day, but when you play against me you will be impressed,” he said. “It don’t mean anything at all. I just work hard because I want to be great. I want to be really good at a position. I want to dominate, and I want to have fun when I’m out there too. So you got to work at it to be good at it.”
He also knows that nothing is going to be handed to him on a silver platter. He wants to earn everything he gets. It’s just the way he grew up, working alongside his parents from a young age, and he feels that it is that attitude that has gotten him to where he is today.
That’s why he was so happy about being drafted by the Vikings organization. He knows that coach Zimmer is a no-nonsense kind of guy who loves his defensive backs. He also knows that this team is already loaded with a bunch of talented guys at his position, so he is going to have to work extra hard to earn his keep.
“The DBs we already have here are really good, so to jump in that pool and compete and get to know those guys, it’s going to be good,” the rookie said. “I need that around me; Coach Zimmer is a hard-nosed coach. He’s going to make you earn everything. My whole life I’ve had to earn it, so for me to be here is lovely. It’s not a transition for me to earn anything. I’m going to come and get it.”
It does not seem like Alexander will be one of the players who gets distracted by the fame or fortune that comes with being a professional football player. He said that he is not even going to buy himself any big, fancy gifts after signing his first contract - he might buy his mom a new car at most. Instead, he is just going to focus in on learning the playbook and proving to his new teammates and coaches that he deserves to be here.
“Just competing. Just knowing the defense. Not acting like a rookie. Just being mature,” he said when asked what makes him stand out. “I think the guys really respect that about me, coming out here and working like a professional, acting like one. Being ahead of the game, like I said, knowing the defense and the playbook and stuff like that.”