PHOENIX -- Usually, Mackensie Alexander prefers to be seen, not heard.
The Clemson cornerback prefers you witness him locking down elite receivers with regularity, not spending time in front of the mircrophones and cameras. This season, the Immokalee, Florida, native has been available for interviews just four times. Outside of any bowl media requirements, Alexander has appeared before reporters just twice in his career.
And though he’s selective about interviews, it doesn’t mean Alexander is at a loss for words. Far from it, actually.
The All-American was relaxed, engaging and insightful Saturday when the microphones emerged and the cameras flipped on, providing a rare glimpse into the personality behind one of the nation’s best cover men.
The word that might best describe Alexander? Confident.
For instance, he reminded reporters that he predicted the Tigers would be here when he signed with them on February 6, 2013.
“If you guys remembered, on signing day, I said we're going to win a national championship,” Alexander said. “I really believed it. ... I said we would be here and we would win it all. We're here and it's time to win it all.”
Asked for his thoughts on the media perception that Alabama is better than Clemson, he challenged that notion.
“You guys really don't believe that,” Alexander said. “You guys are looking at the brand and the big A and what they've done in the past. It's not about that. It's about right now. You guys are looking at the brand too much. That's all. You guys know we've got a better team.”
One popular topic of discussion Saturday was Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley, who Alexander will likely often square off against in the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T this Monday. While Ridley has been lauded by teammates, opposing coaches and media, don’t expect Alexander to step in line. In a 20-minute span, Alexander was asked about Ridley six times. His responses:
On Ridley leading the SEC with eight catches of 40 yards or more: “I'm aware of that. You're telling me something I already know. I do my research. What you don't understand is football is easy. It's like taking candy from a baby.”
On what it takes to stop Ridley: “Listen, I don't stroke nobody's ego. I go out there and handle my business. I feel like I'm the best and biggest man in the country, and I go out there and do it. I'm done talking about this. We do what we do. We face great players. They have great players. We faced great players all year.”
On the challenge Ridley presents: “I don't even know how to answer that. This is Week 15. I've been doing this for 15 weeks. He is what he is. He's a good player. We're just going to go out there and do what we do. We've got a great secondary.”
On if he has seen Ridley on film: “I've seen everybody. Everybody has great players. You see the best players, the great players. I've seen them all.”
On Ridley: “Just another great player that I’ve got to go against. Another great player that I've seen. He does a lot for their offense. That's all.”
When it came to questions about his potential professional future -- Alexander is eligible for early entry into the 2016 NFL draft -- he was as good at shutting those down as he is at stopping opposing receivers.
“I'm focusing on getting this W,” Alexander said when asked about the draft. “We'll see after that. Maybe after the game. Or I'll talk to my parents and see what's up.”
Asked if he requested feedback from the NFL draft advisory board, he admitted that he did but said, “We're not focusing on that. I'm not focusing on that. I'm focusing on this game.”
He didn’t even think about it while on break before bowl season?
“No, no,” he said. “I don't have no time. All my time is devoted to winning and competing and helping my team win. ... I don’t think about it because I’m so busy. I need to get this done and out of the way before I even start thinking about it or doing something else. I'm a finisher. I've always been a finisher.”
Other notable soundbites:
Alexander discussed a wide range of topics from the best player he has faced (“Sammy Watkins”) to cost of attendance stipends (“All my money is helping my parents and stuff like that. They have bills.”) to being the underdog in the title game (“This is a normal thing for us.”) to what his hometown means to him (“I know a lot of people will be watching.”)
Instead of being in attendance at University of Phoenix Stadium this Monday, Alexander's immediate family will be with his mother, who is recovering from back surgery, watching from a hospital room in Naples, Florida.
He revealed a glimpse of how much homework he does, breaking down why Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin utilizes wide receiver screen passes. Alexander showed himself to be thoughtful, speaking of being selfless and helping others. “I'm not a big materialistic guy like the world wants everybody to be.”
Asked about facing the large throng of media on Saturday, Alexander admitted he had fun. “You guys ask interesting questions,” he said with a smile. It’s just something he prefers to do sporadically.
“It would be selfish of me not to come out here when all my teammates are here and not speak to the media,” he said. “I speak well, so no need to hide.
“I feel like I don't need to speak every time. Once in a while. I'm definitely on the Marshawn Lynch [strategy], you know what I mean? I'm more focused on the game.”
--ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad contributed to this report