Drafted as a defensive tackle out of LSU in 1977, Dan Alexander reported to the Jets training camp and found himself being told to huddle up with the offensive linemen before even having a chance to buckle his chinstrap for the first time.
“I’d never played offense except in high school. I don’t know if they thought I wasn’t big enough to be a defensive lineman or what it was. I didn’t ask any questions. I just did what I had to do,” said the 6-4, 260-pound Alexander. “I got into a fight my first practice and it helped get me noticed a little bit. I don’t even recall the name (of who I fought with), but it was a big ol’ fella that had been there a couple of years.
“It was different at first. It’s kind of harder to play (on offense) as far as remembering all the plays right off the bat. It’s much harder than defense in that sense of the game, but it worked out fine. I ended up starting my rookie year at offensive guard.”
Alexander not only ended starting at right guard his rookie year, but he did so for the next 12 years. In fact, he didn’t miss a single game until 1987, his 11th season, when he was sidelined because of a torn calf muscle in his right leg.
In a game where the average length of a career is around three years, how was Alexander able to play 13 seasons at a position where there’s contact on most, if not every, play from scrimmage?
“Well, you just show up every day,” said Alexander, who played in 192 games for the Jets. “I played with a little pain every now and then, but I was lucky enough to not be injured and stay healthy. To this day, I never had surgery, never broke a bone in my life. I had a lot of dislocated fingers and stuff like that, but I’m 63 years old and never broke a bone in my life. I was just lucky, I guess.”
Luck mirrored with exceptional genes.
“My father (Wade) was a really good athlete. He was playing senior softball at 88 years old. That was pretty neat. I used to go watch him all the time,” Alexander said. “And I had an older brother (Alan) that used to whoop me up all the time. I got tired of him kicking my ass and I finally got big enough to kick his. He was a good athlete and played baseball in college at Sam Houston State. They both instilled a lot in me.
“I was just proud to say that I was there every week and I was able to play 13 years and stay healthy. Then when I retired (following the 1989 season), I retired on my own. I wasn’t asked to leave, but I’m sure it wasn’t far off. Anyway, I left on my own terms and that was good, too.”
After hanging up his shoulder pads for the last time, Alexander headed south to Louisiana and embarked on a second career as a businessman. Making his home in Plaquemine, a suburb of Baton Rouge; with his wife, Julie; he owns Nicks Package Liquor & Lounge.
“It’s a small town and everybody knows everybody. It’s kind of like a Cheers-type bar,” said Alexander, the Bayou’s answer to Sam Malone. “It’s just been a good business and fun to run. We have got a bunch of Jet pictures, all the team pictures from when I was there. It’s got a big ‘ol helmet on the outside of the bar. It’s a green and white cinderblock building and it’s got the old Jets logo on there, from when I played, the arrow.”