A bulky knee brace on his right leg protected a torn ACL. It signifies the beginning of the end of his high school career.
“My knee popped, and I just fell,” he said of the injury he sustained Friday. “I’d never felt it pop before. That scared me
“… I thought everything was cool. I didn’t think it was going to be that bad. But it is.”
The Under Armour All-American hurt his anterior cruciate ligament Friday night in Oxford’s 40-24 win over Austin. With 7:55 remaining, Alexander went down, clutching his right knee. After the 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior ran off the field without assistance, he didn’t return. Alexander underwent two MRIs — one Saturday in Anniston and another Monday in Birmingham. Each showed the same gloomy pictures.
Alexander is scheduled for surgery this morning. Dr. Lyle Cain Jr. with the renowned Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center in Birmingham will perform the operation, which can last up to two hours.
Rehab will take longer, meaning even with a deep playoff run, Alexander can only aid his team from the sidelines.
Dr. Duane Tippets, an orthopedic surgeon with Anniston Orthopaedics Association, said new, accelerated rehab routines allow elite athletes, such as Alexander, to recover faster.
Tippets estimates three to four months typically pass before patients who undergo this type of surgery can run. And it takes six months before patients can cut and change directions, the moves that helped make Alexander a star.
It will take a full year before the healing process is final.
“It’s still usually never quite as good as it was before,” said Tippets speaking in general terms. “But a 70-80 percent level of activity is pretty darn good.
“It’s a significant injury.”
While the prognosis seems grim, few schools are backing away from the blue-chip prospect.
After holding 40-plus offers during the summer, Alexander said he’s spoken with a list of his top schools that include Alabama and Auburn as well as LSU, Florida State and Oregon.
“They said they still want me and everything,” he said. “It ain’t no big deal. It’s going to get better than it is now.
“It’s going to get way better than I had (been). It ain’t nothing important like that.”
Alexander said he tweaked the same knee the week before and suspects that might have been the derivation of the injury.
An ACL injury like this one happens when the ligament that connects your shinbone, or tibia, to your thigh bone, or femur, tears along the side of the knee. The recovery time largely depends of his aggressiveness during rehabilitation, Tippets said.
“The rehab is the hard part,” Tippets said. “With athletes, they usually push them pretty hard to get back.”
Speaking of getting back, Oxford coach John Grass said the pity party is over.
The Yellow Jackets must now focus on the task at hand: a Friday road trip to No. 7 Auburn (4-0).
“He’s a strong guy mentally and physically, and he knows it’s time to move on,” Grass said. “… And I think he knows God’s got a plan for his life.
“… I think he’s responded positively, and this will be good for our team to see him do that and still be the leader that he is.”
Grass said he and his staff won’t attempt to replace Alexander with any one player — that’s nearly impossible for a sideline-to-sideline defender of his caliber. In his junior year, he arrived at his elite status when he amassed 127 tackles, 27 for loss, nine sacks and forced five fumbles.
To try to fill the void, the Yellow Jackets will platoon three to four players at that spot.
Similar to the way he shot from unknown to national recruit as a sophomore, the senior seems primed to accept his new role.
“I’m the coach now,” Alexander said with a grin. He tugged on a whistle fastened to a thin rope around his neck. “We’ve got different people playing linebacker now. So, I’m just teaching them how to do the crazy stuff that I be doing.”
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.