Cornerback Mackensie Alexander experienced the ups and downs of being a rookie in his first home preseason game for the Minnesota Vikings. Actually, he experienced the roller-coaster going down, then up and quickly down again in the span of three plays.
The second-round draft pick had his second preseason pick in his sights during the second half of Sunday’s 23-10 Vikings win over the San Diego Chargers but flat-out dropped what should have been an easy interception.
“The drop, it was too easy so I dropped it. I was like, I could not believe he really threw the ball,” Alexander said in the locker room about a half hour after the game. “I was all over the guy, but he threw it anyway. That’s the league.”
His reaction immediately following the game was a little more animated.
“I missed the first one, so I was like, ‘Gosh!’ I read the whole route and everything. I was like, ‘Man!’ The second, the one I didn’t drop, was actually harder than the first one,” he said. “The first was like a baby. I just went up and made a play and knew they were trying to hit the end zone and made a great play.”
It only took one more play and Alexander was back with another opportunity in the fourth quarter. This time he had to extend for it more and contort to pull in the high pass in the end zone.
Perhaps his excitement was too much to be contained. After converting the interception, he was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“Lot of ups and downs there, wasn’t it?” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said of Alexander’s three-play stretch. “I love this kid, honestly. He’s going to be a handful until I get him squared away, but I love this kid.”
Alexander, too, blamed the penalty on his youthful exuberance.
“It was my first home game. I am a young guy who was just amped up and made an exciting play and was just juiced up,” he said. “I kind of have to keep that check a little bit, you know, but it is alright. If it got flagged, then I pretty much deserved it.”
Alexander didn’t have any interceptions at Clemson, so his first interception of the season was a proving point. His second opportunity of the preseason slipped through his hands, or rather rattled off both his hands.
With a second chance in the span of 14 seconds of game clock, he capitalized.
“He’s a competitor, he works, he studies, he fights, he’s made some interceptions here in this offseason,” Zimmer said. “I would much rather have him that way where they’re going to go in there and I have to pull the reins back than the other way. He’ll learn; he told me he was sorry. He’ll learn; he’s just a young guy. You can’t take away his athletic ability or his heart and those are the two things that I want to keep going.”