Friday, June 24, 2011
By Jamie Newberg ESPN Recruiting
Kwon Alexander has starred for Oxford High School in Alabama since he arrived as a freshman, but the nation's top linebacker came into high school as a running back. It seems that Oxford coach John Grass knew what he was doing when he switched him to linebacker his sophomore year.
"I remember his very first game playing linebacker," Grass said. "We hadn't even scrimmaged anyone. But in that first game he had 17, 18 tackles. Kwon is just a natural for the position. He has great instincts. He's so explosive. He sees the ball and then go gets the ball. Kwon runs so well, and boy, can he tackle. There's no doubt. And we saw it in the ninth grade. Kwon just plays the game with a certain intensity."
Kwon Alexander was ranked as the No. 1 linebacker in the class of 2012 and will compete for a staring job.
How good was Alexander that first season at linebacker? So good he had big-time offers shortly after the season.
"Kwon had two dozen scholarship offers the signing day after his sophomore season," Grass said. "I was amazed by that."
His play and the attention he's has drawn from it has not fazed Alexander. He knew early on he had a shot at playing college football.
"I really started to believe it was a possibility when I was a freshman," said the No. 16 overall player in the 2012 class. "I really started getting thick, a lot bigger. Then I started getting looks from colleges. Then the offers came. It's been pretty wild, but this is something that I want and have wanted."
Alexander knows he was blessed with the physical attributes to succeed, but he also knows he didn't do it alone. There were a few important people in his life who have helped guide him along the football path.
"Coach Grass is like a father figure," Alexander said. "He tells me the same things he tells his sons, and that's to keep my head on straight. I have a lot of respect for the man. Of course, my dad has been a huge influence on me. He's always been there for me. He's my biggest fan, a lot of tough love."
"I have a great relationship with him off the field," Grass said. "I treat all the players the same way. Kwon can talk to me about anything and he knows that I have his best interest at heart. I want to see him succeed, and it makes me happy that we have a tight relationship off the field.
"His daddy really pushes him. He expects the best and holds him accountable. That's what a good daddy does."
While Alexander gets along with everyone -- teammates, students and faculty -- he isn't a rah-rah guy in the locker room. He's more of a silent leader, an assassin on the field who lets his play do all the talking.
"Kwon leads by example," Grass said. "He plays with a lot of energy on the field. He's not much of a vocal guy. The team just feeds off his play and energy. It's very infectious.
"He goes out of his way with the young guys and he doesn't want to be heard all the time. People respect that. Kwon is a very likable guy."
True to his personality, Alexander doesn't say much about his recruiting. He's one of the nation's top prospects from the football-crazed state of Alabama and he just takes it in stride.
"He's very laid-back and not much of a talker," said Grass. "I mean, a kid like that and that good, he has handled it as good as you can. Really, he has handled it very well. And he's stayed hungry and humble. Kwon is very modest about his success and his ability."
At this point his recruitment is wide open. Alexander is working on a top 10 and is still considering schools like Alabama, Auburn, Florida, FSU, Clemson, Oregon, Ole Miss, Nebraska, LSU, Miami and "a lot of others."
He has seen Alabama this spring, participated in a Nike Football Training Camp at the University of Georgia, and is going to Oregon on July 5.
"There's something about [the Ducks] and I really want to see what Oregon is all about. I want to walk around and see the coaches. I want to see if I like Oregon or not," said Alexander. "I also really want to see LSU and Miami, as well.
"I just need to find the right place for me, where I feel comfortable with everything."
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at email@example.com.