He might've been the Jaguars' pick in the second round, had the Jaguars selected, say, Brady Quinn in the first round of the 2007 draft. Gerald Alexander fully expected that the Jaguars would pick him.
"I thought for sure I was coming here. Dave Campo (former Jaguars defensive backs coach) came to my pro day. We had lunch and talked. I was feeling a lot of interest. I felt this was the team it would be," Alexander said of the 2007 pre-draft evaluation period.
The Jaguars were clearly in need of a safety. It came down to Reggie Nelson in the first round or Alexander in the second round. Nobody, of course, expected Quinn to fall all the way to the bottom of the first round. The Jaguars traded back once and then selected Nelson with pick number 21. Two years later, the Jaguars find themselves with both safeties on their roster, following a trade that brought Alexander to Jacksonville from Detroit.
In what could turn out to be one of the highlight competitions of training camp, Alexander hopes to duel with Nelson for the starting free safety job. First, however, he'll have to confront something else: his first hit on a surgically-repaired neck.
"It's going to be interesting. I'm just going to do it and see what happens. Physically it's like nothing has happened. As far as the hitting, it's just human nature not to go full speed. Once that first hit happens, I'll be ready to go," Alexander said.
Alexander, Detroit's second-round pick out of Boise State in '07, sustained a season-ending neck injury in the fifth game of last season. The injury resulted in a cracked vertebrae and a herniated disk.
"It was the fourth quarter, two-minute warning against Minnesota. They were running the clock out. They were giving it to (Adrian) Peterson. He broke through a hole and I tried to put my head on the ball. He's a powerful runner," Alexander said of the play that ended his season.
"I walked off the field and I thought it was a stinger. After the game I took a shower and I wanted to get on the plane and go home. They brought a stretcher in and I'm telling them they're wasting their time. They took the x-ray and they saw there was a fracture," he added.
The greater concern was for the herniated disk, which required a fusion operation to stabilize that level. By spring, all was well and Alexander was given the green light to participate in the Lions' OTAs, but a new Lions administration had just drafted safety Louis Delmas with the 33rd overall selection and Alexander's days with the Lions were numbered.
"I passed the physical. It is what it is. Their future plans didn't involve me. They got me here and it's always good to feel wanted," Alexander said.
In trading wide receiver Dennis Northcutt for Alexander in a straight player-for-player swap, Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith made playing time for his young receivers and fortified a position of concern. If you doubt that safety is such a position, then please consider that since Smith took over as GM late last season, the Jaguars have signed veterans Sean Considine and Marlon McCree, acquired Kennard Cox off Green Bay's practice squad, and traded for Alexander.
"It's all about competition. You can talk about picks, but once you get in the NFL, guys are going to compete to play. My focus isn't on the depth chart. I, first and foremost, need to get the respect of my teammates. I'm willing to work hard in the film room. I have to get the playbook down and be a safety on the field that can guide and direct and be the quarterback of the defense," Alexander said.
He had a standout rookie year. He started all 16 games, made a lot of tackles and intercepted a couple of passes. His career in Detroit turned on the injury and a front-office restructuring.
In Jacksonville, he's part of a restructuring. In acquiring Alexander, Smith went back and got a guy he liked as he was coming of college.
"My hopes are to win. I'm used to winning. I'm just looking to succeed on this team as an individual and win as a team," Alexander said.