Maurice Alexander's football career appeared to be in doubt two years ago, and it certainly was not one headed toward the NFL.
A fight with a teammate led to the former Utah State defender back to his native St. Louis, where he found work as a janitor at Edward Jones Dome, home of the St. Louis Rams.
Eventually, Alexander made his way back to Logan, Utah, for the 2013 season, and his tale came full circle last week when he was selected by his hometown Rams in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Now, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound strong safety is one of hundreds of rookies who are donning their pro pads for the first time during rookie mini-camps Friday.
"It's a dream come true. I'm from here. I always dreamed of playing here," he said during a Rams press conference introducing several draftees. "I know my mother is proud of me and my family."
In 2011 at Utah State, Alexander played in 11 games — starting eight — as a linebacker after transferring from Arizona Western College. He finished the year with 45 tackles, three sacks and seven tackles for loss.
But in early 2012, he ran into trouble at a party. According to court documents reported by the Deseret News in July that same year Alexander punched teammate Joey DeMartino in the left side of the head during an altercation. The punch caused DeMartino, a running back for the Aggies, to fall to the ground and temporarily lose consciousness. He needed surgery for broken bones in his left eye socket, a fractured cheekbone and multiple stitches.
DeMartino reported the incident to police on Feb. 29. This landed Alexander with a jail sentence of 365 days — all but 45 days were suspended by the judge — in addition to a $1,500 fine, one year of probation and a $21,341 restitution payment.
According to the charges, "USU football coaches were made aware of the incident and sent Maurice to his home in St. Louis, Missouri, prior to the report of the incident."
That's where Alexander's stint as a janitor comes in. To help pay for online classes, Alexander picked up his job at the stadium, he said.
The St. Louis organization, fully aware of the incident, did not let that deter them from selecting Alexander.
“He was very professional, very upfront, very honest,” Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We didn’t have a problem with it.”
His time as a janitor also served as motivation.
“Every time that I went to work, I always stood at the end of that field, and I just looked at it,” Alexander told the Post-Dispatch. “I just looked at it like this could be my dream spot. And look where I’m at now.”
Alexander arrived to this point by returning and starring for the Aggies in 2013. When he rejoined the Utah State football team, Alexander moved over to safety and made a big impact. He finished the season with 80 tackles, 3.5 sacks, six pass breakups and an interception.
“I did everything they asked of me. I did what it took to get back into the university," Alexander told the Post-Dispatch. "I took classes. I worked. It was a struggle, but it was worth it. It was all worth it coming back. I appreciate the coaches — just Utah State, the fans, everyone — for just believing in me, letting me come back.”
As for DeMartino? He led the Aggies in 2013 with 1,221 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. That helped the running back land an undrafted free-agent deal with the Kansas City Chiefs.
All totaled, eight former Utah State players hit the field Friday for rookie mini-camps. That doesn't include DeMartino, whose Chiefs head to camp May 24-26.
"It's sunk in, but I can't wait to be out there with the vets and be out there with the coaches," Alexander said during the press conference. "It's still a dream come true."
And how about trading in his janitorial uniform for a Rams jersey? Alexander will have his first chance to don the Blue and Gold in a preseason game on Aug. 8, against the New Orleans Saints.
"It's going to be an emotional moment," he said. "From working there as a janitor to potentially playing there, it's going to be an emotional moment."
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