OAKLAND — Washington Redskins defensive tackle Lorenzo Alexander knows all about turning the improbable into probable.
The former St. Mary's High School and Cal star was fortunate to get a lot of help from the community as a kid growing up in Oakland, staying on the right path to earn his football scholarship. Then, after going undrafted in 2005 and getting cut by the Carolina Panthers after one season on their practice squad, Alexander has become a key reserve for Washington the past two seasons.
Alexander is well aware of his good fortune, and he wants to let other Oakland kids know it's possible for them, too. That's why he's started the Lorenzo Alexander ACES Foundation, a nonprofit enrichment program designed to give back to the Oakland community.
The Foundation is hosting a free football camp this weekend for youths aged 8-17 at Curt Flood Field.
"I made it as far as I did because people took the time to give back," Alexander said. "I feel it's only right, being blessed to be able to play in the NFL, to give back to these kids. I know in Oakland there are a lot of kids that don't have a good foundation or have someone they can look up to. I'm just trying to allow people to see that you can be successful coming out of Oakland."
ACES stands for Accountability, Community, Education and Sports. In addition to football drills, the camp will feature guest speakers from the community to talk about education — taking the correct classes, knowing when important test dates come up, getting tutoring, etc.
There will also be a guest nutritionist and a handful of players and coaches, including Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Langston Walker, another Oakland native and former Cal star who also played for the Raiders; Redskins teammates Alex Buzbee, H.B. Blades and current Cal players Derrick Hill and Covaughn DeBoskie.
"Oakland gets a lot of negative publicity," Alexander said. "I'm trying to show them that there are guys that made it that dealt with the same issues they are dealing with."
Alexander has stuck with the Redskins by not only performing at defensive tackle, but also helping out on the offensive line and on special teams. He's also lined up at tight end and fullback in goal-line situations.
"I can use my example that not everything is always going to go perfect in life," Alexander said. "You have to stay inspired and focused on what you want to do. Eventually it will all pay off, maybe not the way you thought it would, but you'll get there."
Contact Jonathan Okanes at firstname.lastname@example.org.