Living an impactful life after the NFL with Lorenzo Alexander
By Mary Maxey
October 24, 2019
In today’s episode, our guest is Lorenzo Alexander. He is a former American football linebacker who played in the NFL for 15 seasons playing the majority with the Washington Redskins. He played college football for the University of California and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Carolina Panthers in 2005.
[4:25] What are the things you’ve found beneficial to your life as an athlete that you wish non-athletes would experience?
Sports are like simulated adversity that you experience every day. You either have success or failure and then you find out how you can grow in those moments. How do you get better? How do you become a better version of yourself? Human nature is to be in a place of comfort. We all want to find an easy flow. But we really don’t grow in that because the human condition is also to be complacent in many ways, and if you’re not pushed or challenged, you kind of just stay the same and let people pass you by.
So, I wish more people would play sports, engage, and get into a space that is going to stimulate adversity that they can learn from and then apply to who they are and the people that they impact on that day based on agreement.
[7:25] What’s the easiest, stress-free path to something?
I think we have the same mental health issues when it comes to sports and culture in general. We have the perspective that men don’t cry, and we shouldn’t tell our sons that we love them. But I think there needs to be a little bit of balance. We should be able to acknowledge our feelings and build mental toughness. There are a lot of different things out there that you can do to create balance in your life. But we are different, and that is why you have to know the loudest voices that you hear often. To be effective, we must strike a balance somewhere in the middle. If you are always in a state of crisis and you just try to chill out, beat yourself up, and not practice self-care, you are not doing anything. So building the skill set that you need in that space is really important.
[12:30] Can you walk us through the experience you had as a kid that led you to this point?
I went to St. Mary’s High School, did well in school, was one of the top players in the country, and eventually decided to go to Cal Berkeley. So one of the things my parents and uncle always instilled in me was having a plan B. I was taught that I could do multiple things at the same time. I always had my identity because I was a good student. I was a good football player who was ready to serve, and they created this structure for me that I was just participating in. I didn’t quite understand it at the time, but when I look back at it, I realize why I am here today. I’m passionate about certain things because of the individuals that I’ve had in my life. Much of the work done, primarily by my uncle Steve and mother, benefited me greatly.
My uncle had a family of his own and was married, but he still found time to sacrifice and serve not only his family but also to ensure that I had the structure I needed in addition to what my mother provided. I have people who are more talented than I am but didn’t have the structure and support that I had, so they ended up taking different routes. I had a great example of what that was supposed to look like and followed it as closely as I could.
[25:10] Can you share with people your day-to-day activities and where you see yourself in the next three to five years?
Well, the big thing, as you just mentioned, was finishing up my Master’s program at Grand Canyon University. One of the things that I was also blessed to learn was psychology, with an emphasis on life coaching. I was taught a growth mindset, and this is not something that I learned in grad school from an academic perspective, but something that I heard from Sean McDermott and how he applied it to football.
Everybody, I think, is inherently given certain skills and is gifted at certain levels, and we can be intentional about cultivating those within us as well. There is something that I have started doing over the last couple of years, and people know it as Exco, a training facility. Guys, former players, current players, and future NFL players go and train with some of the best in the business, and it’s a big-time company that does a really good job.
They have one here in Phoenix, and I work with the linebackers every year. I’m always concerned with preparing you for life. We talk about football stuff and how you need to navigate the business, but at the end of the day, I want you to tackle these things and apply them to life because if you are a better man, you will be a better husband, father, and other things.
[30:58] What has driven you to dive back in at this emotional expenditure level?
Living in Paradise Valley is probably the most Ranchi. I see myself in these young men, my sons and daughters, who are obviously black in America. I see myself in these people and all the trauma that a lot of people have to endure, no matter where they come from, how they grew up with poor parents, and so on. I grew up with friends dying, so I had my uncle step into that space and create the best safe environment. He made sure I didn’t turn out like one of my cousins, who is smarter and more gifted than me but ended up in prison for 10 years for catching a case. My cousin and I were tight; he was like my big brother in a lot of ways I never had, and I don’t want to see anybody become that or not reach their full potential.
So I think that is what drives me a lot of times. I want to be impacted so that I can help others become the best versions of themselves. I know how impactful that can be and what that means to the people that you come in contact with.
[33:30] How do you balance all these things while being a father and a husband?
I think building boundaries is one of the main things. When I started my career, I didn’t do that. I was a rookie when I got married, and I was used to doing things a certain way as far as getting ready for the season. So, I had a selfish mindset. I went out to California for like three weeks to train with my pregnant wife back in Virginia, and that is the stupidest thing you can ever do, right? I had people who had successfully built 25 years of marriage talk to me and give me advice. So keeping myself in a safe space allows me to be present and also not overwhelm me, and I have to be reminded from time to time because I am passionate about serving and helping. But I think creating that infrastructure for myself has been key. I make sure that I put my wife and kids first, which is always the case, but I’ve always had to deal with that selflessness and be intentional about it.
[36:45] Do you ever have the thought of your kids playing at the level you played?
I find it hard to allow them to see what I did for a living. The work that I put in was what it provided for them. I retired three years ago, and my daughter is now 14 years old, and my son is a grown-up too. My son has memories of football, and I would be cruel to say no if he ever showed any interest in it. I know it’s dangerous, but a lot of things that we do are dangerous, and my job is to make sure that we do them in the safest way possible. My wife and I had discussed it before, and I will let him play once he gets to high school.
[42:10] What promise did God make to the world when he created you?
Serve in love with all my heart.
[12:20-12:24] Once you’re done with the game, that game is done with you.
[23:24-23:27] As humans, we sometimes give enough to feel compelled.
How to connect with Lorenzo Alexander