A feel-good story could be emerging with safety Maurice Alexander, the Rams' fourth-round pick. Alexander was dismissed from Utah State in 2012 after pleading guilty to misdemeanor aggravated assault resulting in bodily injury after punching teammate Joey DeMartino in the face at a party, causing broken orbital bones in his eye and a fractured cheekbone.
A high-school standout at Eureka, Alexander returned home and worked in the Edward Jones Dome as a janitor. He was reinstated at Utah State for the 2013 season and switched from linebacker to safety, where he started 13 games.
The Rams consider him a good fit for their defense, and coach Jeff Fisher called him "an outstanding young man with huge upside."
Alexander credited those that believed in him, and when asked about the year away from school, said, "It made me the man I am today. It's a lesson learned. Me and my teammate, we're great friends, it was a mistake. The Rams organization they know about it, and it made me a better man today. Utah State University believed in me, they brought me back. I'm a great guy, I'm a great friend, I'm a great person to be around and I'm good in the locker room. I'd like to thank Utah State, I'd like to thank coach Fisher, I'd like to thank Mr. (Les) Snead for believing in me. It's a lesson learned."
As for Utah State giving him the opportunity to come back, Alexander said, "It was a blessing. I did everything that they asked of me. I did what it took to get back into the university. I took classes, I worked. It was a struggle, but it was all worth coming back. I appreciate the coaches, the Utah State organization, the fans, everyone for believing in me and letting me come back."
Alexander was a starting linebacker in 2011, and after the year away, without spring football, was moved to safety. He earned a starting job and had 11 tackles in the season opener against Utah. He finished the season with 80 tackles, 9.0 tackels for loss, 3.5 sacks, six passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
So, how was it that you were able to make what appeared to be a seamless change?
"I love football," he said. "Like I said. I'm willing to learn anything. That year off, it taught me a lot. I know football could be over in a matter of time, like that it could be over quick. My IQ is pretty good in football. It was a hard switch, I'm not even going to lie. It's a hard switch going from linebacker to safety, but I'm easy to coach. Coach (Todd) Orlando believed in me up there at Utah State and he taught me very well."
Orlando is the Aggies' defensive coordinator and safeties coach.
Said general manager Les Snead, "It's going to be a cool story because he's from here, grew up here and the whole Dome thing, but you can tell he's got a passion for football. Anytime you're probably young and go through something like that, that's adversity that you've got to have some grit to get through it. I think you love the passion that, 'I really want this opportunity,' so I think he's really, really jacked to be a Ram because it means something to him. We got to know him probably better than anybody because of the local workout and all of that."
Howard Balzer hosts "H and Friends" Monday-Friday from 9-11 on Fox Sports 1490 The Champ. He is also a host on SiriusXM NFL Radio and one of 44 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.