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Breaking Down The Offense

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On Sale at Newsstands April 7!
Rufus Revelations
Sooner LB talks about 2006

Underneath the helmet, the eye-black and the glint of the fierce competitor is a grounded young man preparing himself for whatever challenge presents itself next. That’s how Rufus Alexander approaches each day. It’s what has helped make him an All-America-caliber linebacker.

A fan favorite, Alexander fuels his high-powered engine with the collective energy provided by the 80,000-plus fans who pack themselves into Memorial Stadium each home game. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound linebacker led the Sooners in tackles last season and figures to be one of the key leaders in 2006.

Sooner Spectator caught up with Alexander recently after a spring practice to find out what it is exactly that makes him tick.

Sooner Spectator: How has your offseason been and are you excited about spring football?
Rufus Alexander: Everything has been great. I’ve mostly been working out and preparing myself for next season. Working out isn’t one of the funniest things you do, but you’ve got to do it to get better. It’s like working on your craft, polishing it up in the offseason. My goal is to get bigger, stronger and faster, and to do that, I’ve got to listen to what Coach (Jerry) Schmidt tells me and follow through on it.

SS: Are Coach Schmidt’s offseason workouts as tough as reported?
Alexander: They are tough and then some. You have to be mentally prepared to go through the physical challenges they demand of you in there. His workouts are all they are hyped up to be, believe me. You really kind of dread it, but you know deep down it’s what makes you better.

SS: Are you even more motivated than usual since 2006 will be your senior season?
Alexander: I’m always motivated. If you are going to be the best at what you do in life, you have to be willing to put in the time and work. Whatever in life makes you happy, you obviously want to be the best you can be doing it. I’m fortunate enough to play college football and if it takes me going to extra workouts to be the best player I can be, then that’s what I’m going to do.

SS: Does spring football help breakup the monotony of the offseason, or is it all business?
Alexander: Honestly, to me, spring football is a lot of fun. It’s always good when you can put on the pads and mix it up a little instead of just going through the regular routine of working out. Spring football helps make the offseason go by faster, plus it helps prepare you better with on-the-field type stuff. I know it’s helped me.

SS: What are the benefits of spring football for you this year since you are already an established player?
Alexander: I think more than anything it just helps keep you familiar with the defense and in tune with your teammates. You can never have enough overall knowledge of the defense. Building the cohesiveness as a unit is critical to any team’s success and that’s one of our main focuses in the spring — creating that chemistry that will carryover to the fall.

SS: What has been the key to you stepping up and being such a major contributor the last two seasons? What can you do to be even better?
Alexander: I’ve always been eager to learn and I believe that has really helped my progress as a Division-I football player. I take everything to heart and do my best to apply what I’ve learned on the field. Add that to my instincts and I think that’s what has helped make me the player I am. As for getting better — I think continuing to learn and grow are the keys for me. You never stop doing those things if you want to be the best.

SS: How much influence have guys like Lance Mitchell, Teddy Lehman and Clint Ingram had on your career?
Alexander: Teddy was a great student of game. He could see things coming at him during the game before they happened, and that’s what I’ve tried to learn from Teddy. Getting in the film room and studying the game. Clint always played with such great emotion and passion. He had so much fun and that’s something I’ve tried to do as well — make it fun everytime I go on the field.

SS: How is school going? What are you majoring in?
Alexander: It’s good. My major is sociology and I’ll graduate next December (2006).

SS: How important is it that you earn your degree?
Alexander: It’s important, especially for my family. To me, I always expected to graduate, so it’s not like some big deal. As far as it being a goal, sure, it’s important from that standpoint. Right now, I see it as a nice accomplishment, but later on, I’ll probably look at it differently.

SS: Looking past your senior season, what do you see in your future?
Alexander: If I have the opportunity to go play professional football, I’ll definitely give it a shot. Not many people get the chance to play in the NFL and if that happens, it would be a dream come true. After that, I’ll just have to see what my options are.

SS: What is your mindset going into your senior season? Is it different than the past two seasons?
Alexander: The kind of person I am, I take everything one day at a time. Go hard every day and don’t have any regrets when the day is done. I haven’t set any specific goals for myself other than team stuff. Maybe to be a better leader for my teammates.

SS: How good can this team be in 2006?
Alexander: Obviously, we have high expectations. But that’s the case every season at the University of Oklahoma. Every season, our ultimate goal is to play in the national championship game. We have steps to take to get to that point, but that’s what we are playing for. When it comes right down to it, you just have to look at the season one game at a time. Each step is key to your success.

SS: Do you have any game day routines you go through, any superstitions?
Alexander: No superstitions really. I just go out there, play loose and let it rip. Whatever happens, happens.

SS: How does it feel when you hear the whole stadium start chanting your name?
Alexander: It’s pretty cool, very motivating for me. It can really get your blood pumping out there and it makes you feel good. OU has great fans and I’ve enjoyed all of the support they’ve given me during my time here.

SS: With your time as a student-athlete so regimented with school and football, what do you do to relax when you have a few extra minutes?
Alexander: The way I kick back is watch movies. I’ll either rent a few or go to the movie theater to see everything that I’ve been missing due to studying and practicing.

SS: What will you do or be with your life after football?
Alexander: I’m probably going to get into coaching and maybe do something in the real-estate business later on. So many of my coaches have been role models for me, especially my high school coach. Coach (Brent) Venables has been a big influence on me. He such a great motivator because his motor is always running. That’s what I’d like to do — be a successful coach and make an impact on young people’s lives.

Editor's Note: This interview appears in the Spring Football Issue of Sooner Spectator. Pick up your copy now at newsstands.