This article appeared in NewMan Magazine Sept. 2006
NFL MVP Shaun Alexander played in the Super Bowl and is the highest-paid running back in history. But his burning desire is to have a great impact for Christ.
Behind the wealth he signed an eight-year, $62 million contract in March, becoming the NFL’s highest-paid running back in history. Behind the game he scored 28 touchdowns last season, a single-season record, was named league MVP and led the Seattle Seahawks to Super Bowl XL.And behind his megawatt smile that simultaneously provokes and inspires, Shaun Alexander is a giddy little boy who used to lie awake late into the night sharing his dreams with his older brother, Durran. Unfazed. Unchanged.
Growing up, Alexander lived in a two-room apartment in Florence, Ky., where he shared a bedroom with Durran for 17 years.
“I’ve always been the one with the big dreams,” Alexander, 29, tells New Man. “The big goals. The let’s-go-to-the-moon sort of thing. My brother was the guy who says, ‘OK, this is how we’re going to do it.'”
That hasn’t changed.
Durran, one year older and Alexander’s twin look-alike, is still the organizer and put-it-to-action project manager. Just as he did when he was a kid dreaming of one day running for touchdowns in the NFL, Alexander hasn’t stopped thinking big.
The two also haven’t stopped sharing and caring. That’s the way their mother, Carol, a big-hearted woman who raised her two sons by herself, taught them to be.
After his NFL rookie year in 2000, Alexander opened a foundation in his hometown (shaunalexander.org) that gave single-parent families a hand up, providing money to pay for heating, food and housing bills.
Last year, he spent $1.8 million to buy the old YMCA building in Florence that he and his brother couldn’t play in as kids because they didn’t have enough money. Durran, a Notre Dame graduate who left a management job with the Campbell Soup Company to work for his brother’s foundation, manages the project.
Mentoring Great Leaders For the Future
In Seattle, Alexander has started a young men’s mentoring program.
“I love mentoring young men to change the world, trying to grow young men to be great leaders for the future,” says Alexander, who also helped start Club 37, a nationwide program that allows young men from every state, ages 14 to 24, to hold each other accountable for their decisions to follow Christ. “I’m all about helping young men understand they can be examples to the people around them.”
Alexander, whose parents divorced when he was in the fourth grade, sees a generation of young men growing up without a male role model because of the country’s high divorce rate.
After re-signing with Seattle, Alexander says he planned to “change this whole city forever” through his outreach to young men and hoped to partner with billionaire team owner Paul Allen.
Those who grew up with Alexander aren’t surprised he’s involved with providing role models through programs that teach leadership, character and Christianity.
“Shaun has always been a leader,” says Bob Brown, Alexander’s cousin. “He sees that there are so many who aren’t stepping up to be good fathers. He knows that if you strive to be good when you’re young, it will follow you into adulthood.”
Alexander’s male mentors in his life were his coaches, including Gene Stallings, a devoted Christian and former University of Alabama coach. But his biggest influence was his mother, who squeezed rent, food money and car payments out of her customer service job with Protector & Gamble. Somehow, Carol, though she struggled financially, always had enough to help others.
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