In Focus: Alexander the Great
Humility Distinguishes LSU Legend Charles Alexander
Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, "humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends." Two-time LSU All-American running back Charles Alexander certainly gives homage to this quote.
Alexander will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame this December in New York City. Not only is the Hall of Fame gaining one of the most talented running backs in college football history, it is also welcoming one of the most humble team players to ever play the game.
During his time at LSU, "Alexander the Great" set numerous school and SEC records, earned various accolades, and completed his career as one of the greatest players in Fighting Tiger football history. The MVP of the SEC in his junior year in 1977 and a Heisman Trophy finalist the following season, Alexander refused to single himself out for his many accomplishments.
"It's a tremendous honor [to be elected to the College Football Hall of Fame]," Alexander said, as he becomes the eighth LSU player to receive this prestigious honor. "I don't take all the credit for myself. I attribute a lot of it to my teammates and my coaches."
When talking about his stellar career at LSU, Alexander never fails to mention his offensive line, nicknamed the "Root Hogs."
"You can have all the ability in the world, but you really don't have anything if you don't have the guys up front," Alexander said. As the years have passed, Alexander and his blockers Jay Whitley, Chris Rich, Robert Dugas, William Johnson, Craig Duhe, Cliff Lane and Kelly Simmons have remained friends. "I still keep in touch with those guys," Alexander said, "and we try to get together at least once a year for an LSU football game."
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Alexander was not heavily recruited by Southeastern Conference teams coming out of Ball High School in Galveston, Texas.
"I wasn't great, Alexander said. "I was a big guy that could run. I didn't have a lot of moves and I didn't have very good hands." Recruited by fellow College Football Hall of Fame member and his position coach at LSU, Jerry Stovall, Alexander turned down Stovall's offer to play for the Tigers "at least a dozen times," he recalled. But Stovall's persistence paid off and Alexander enrolled at LSU in 1975 to play for the Tigers under head coach Charles McClendon.
There were various factors he took into account when deciding on a school, but he says he was ultimately drawn to the academic environment at LSU and historic Tiger Stadium. "I knew it was a place that I could get a quality education," Alexander said. "That's why I went to LSU."
Alexander recalled a rough start to his college playing career at LSU. "First game against Nebraska (in 1975), I don't know if I made it back to the line of scrimmage." Alexander finished the game with -2 rushing yards. "I was almost ready to go back to Galveston," he said.
He was competing for playing time day-in and day-out with future NFL running back Terry Robiskie. This, along with his inauspicious start against Nebraska presented quite a challenge to Alexander. However, he proved he was up to the task. "It wasn't an easy ride for me, but I did develop into a pretty good back."
A "pretty good back" is a severe understatement for Alexander who had his breakout season in 1977. In 11 games, he rushed for a school record 1,686 yards and amassed 17 touchdowns while averaging 5.42 yards per carry and averaged a school record 153.3 yards per game. People started to take notice of Alexander and he began to receive attention from the national media, which was a new experience for him.
"It was something I had to get used to," Alexander explained. "I came out of Galveston, and my high school team was not really good. I wasn't used to a lot of the media attention, but it was exciting." Always being the humble player, Alexander said, "I was the kind of guy that didn't like to take all the credit. I know football is a team sport and I used to always try to mention my 'Root Hogs.'"
Alexander finished his career at LSU with 4,035 rushing yards and 40 rushing touchdowns, which both rank third all-time in the LSU record books behind Kevin Faulk and Dalton Hilliard.
He garnered All-American and All-SEC honors in 1977 and 1978 and was named the Most Valuable Player of the SEC in 1977. He set nine SEC records and tied another and set 27 school marks in his four years at LSU. His name still sits atop three school records - including his 1,686 rushing yards in 1977, along with most rushes in a game and most yards rushing per game in a season.
Alexander went on to become the 12th pick in the 1979 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals where he played seven seasons and started in Super Bowl XVI against the San Francisco 49ers in 1982.
He set a modest goal for himself when he entered the professional ranks. "My goal when I first got in the NFL was to see if I could play five years and I ended up playing seven," Alexander said proudly. Over those seven seasons, Alexander rushed for 2,645 yards, but he always had a plan for his life after football.
Alexander said that Stovall placed great emphasis on him earning a degree.
"I came back after my first year in the NFL and I went back to school and got my degree, and it paid off because I had the opportunity to work here at LSU for 10 years." He worked in the Academic Center for Athletes for four years and served as a development officer for the Tiger Athletic Foundation for six years. He has since moved back to his home state of Texas and is now a successful businessman in the oil and gas industry in Houston.
Already a member of LSU's Modern Day Team of the Century, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame, Alexander can add the College Football Hall of Fame to his list of accomplishments. He will join seven other LSU Tigers in the Hall of Fame - Jerry Stovall, Billy Cannon, Tommy Casanova, Doc Fenton, Ken Kavanaugh, Abe Mickal and Gaynell Tinsley.
"This is an important recognition for one of the legendary figures in LSU athletics history," LSU Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Joe Alleva said. "This honor is one of the most significant and prestigious honors in all of sports and one which is well-deserved."
Charles Alexander truly is the embodiment of the LSU Tiger spirit. He patiently waited for his number to be called, and when it was, he played his hardest and never took all of the credit for victory. He represented the University at the highest level on and off the field, and he returned to LSU even after his football days were behind him.
He has a plethora of exemplary qualities, but above all, Charles Alexander's humility is what separates him from everyone else.