CLEMSON — Mackensie Alexander does take a recess from training. On occasion.
“What does he do for breaks? He goes and sits in the cold tub (for rehab),” Mackenro Alexander said. “And some family time. That’s the only break he has. No distractions.”
Mackensie, Clemson’s former cornerback, and Mackenro, his twin brother, are training together in their hometown of Immokalee, Fla., ahead of Mackensie’s appearance at this week’s NFL Scouting Combine and continued pursuit of a first-round NFL Draft selection in April.
Alexander seldom takes a night off to just hang out with friends. He’s focused full-time on football. He’s motivated to be the best.
“Everybody’s goal is to be a first-round draft pick, to be a top pick,” Mackensie Alexander said. “My standards have always been high. I’m just going to focus on performing and everything else will take care of itself.”
While most of this year’s prospects have traveled to fancy training academies or facilities to prepare for the Combine, Alexander toils quietly in his hard-knocks neighborhood of Immokalee, a small agricultural town just north of the Everglades and two hours away from Miami.
Mackensie Alexander remembers the times in high school when Mackenro was just a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger and a little bit faster. That lingered into high school when Mackenro reached Immokalee High School’s varsity team before Mackensie, who would develop into ESPN’s No. 4 recruit in the nation for the class of 2013.
The Alexanders’ high school coach at the time, Jerrod Ackley, joked that Mackenro was stealing dinner from Mackensie. Mackensie, who would respond with a sheepish smile, was hungry to prove doubters wrong, even his brother and coach.
“Mackensie always wants to be one step ahead of any opponent,” said Mackenro, originally an Auburn signee who played last year at Northeast Mississippi CC. “Mackensie’s always paranoid. He’s always on his toes, because he wants to do whatever it takes to be the best. He makes a lot of sacrifices for his family; he doesn’t have much friends. He stays up late, wakes up in the morning — he’s never not working.”
Mackensie’s Clemson career began and ended with injuries — a groin injury forced him to redshirt 2013, and a sore hamstring removed him from the College Football Playoff championship game Jan. 11 — but in between he sent quarterbacks’ eyes veering to the opposite side of the gridiron by locking down receivers for two years.
“It was awesome. I had a great career at Clemson. There’s no ifs or butts about it. I made the most of my opportunities,” Alexander said.
Not being able to finish the championship game, which the Tigers lost 45-40 to Alabama, “was the hardest thing of my career,” he said. “Just watching my brothers go out there and fight, not being able to help physically, it was tough.”
Alexander was the mystery man during his two years on the field, rarely speaking with local or national media more than once every few months. Now that he’s a professional training for the NFL Combine, he’s ready to open up. Defensive backs meet with media and undergo medical exams Saturday, and take to on-field workouts Monday in Indianapolis.
“He was compared to Marshawn Lynch (in college,) but he doesn’t plan to be Marshawn Lynch during this process and in the NFL,” said Mackensie’s agent, Trey Robinson, referring to the Seattle Seahawks’ famously coy, just-retired running back. “He wants to be Mackensie Alexander.”
The NFL Combine runs through Monday, with eight former Clemson players participating. Defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd, linebacker B.J. Goodson and defensive tackle D.J. Reader speak to reporters and have medical tests Friday and go through on-field workouts Sunday.
Tigers wide receiver prospect Charone Peake has media and medical duties Thursday and works out Saturday. Alexander and safeties Jayron Kearse and T.J. Green help round out the combine with media and medical tests Saturday before Monday workouts.
NFL Network will carry live coverage from Lucas Oil Stadium Friday through Monday.