Within the first hours of the NFL’s open negotiating period, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander agreed to terms with the 49ers on a lucrative contract.
Alexander traveled a bumpy and painful road to get to this point in his life. After months of uncertainty, Alexander finally signed the kind of life-changing contract for which he had dreamt.
”I reflect on everything, all the hard work I put into it, the times I ran hills by myself,” Alexander said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.
“When it all happened, I just started thinking about everything I’ve done in the past that got me to this spot I’m in right now. And now I just got to keep going.”
The 49ers signed Alexander to a four-year, $53.5 million contract with $14.25 million in guaranteed money, not because of what he has done in the past. General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan singled him out among all free agents because of what they believe he can contribute in the middle of the team’s defense in the future.
Shanahan knew all about Alexander from facing him with the Atlanta Falcons, including a game that will forever show what the game of football means to him and his family.
As Alexander was preparing for just his seventh NFL game in 2015, he received word from back home in Alabama that his 17-year-old brother, Broderick Taylor II, was shot and killed. The Buccaneers organization told Alexander, a rookie, they would support him if he decided to go home to be with family.
Alexander decided to play in the game.
“It felt right, but it felt wrong. You know what I mean? Because I wanted to be there with my family,” Alexander said. “I know they were going through a tough time. But I just knew . . . he always told me, he just wanted me to ball. He wanted me to keep doing what I was doing.
“So I went out there and played for him, and he really took over the whole game for me. I feel like he was in my body the whole game. I was making plays that I wasn’t making. It was amazing.”
Alexander recorded 11 tackles, forced and recovered a fumble, and had an interception as Tampa Bay defeated the Falcons in overtime.
Alexander joined his family two days later for his brother’s funeral. In a piece for The Player’s Tribune, Alexander revealed he placed the game ball and the jersey he wore from that game in his brother’s casket.
Two years later, the man who shot and killed Alexander’s brother was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to life in prison. Alexander got a tattoo over his entire back as a tribute to his brother, Lil’ Brod, an energetic and good-natured kid he remembers fondly for his sense of humor, love of family and his plan to serve in the Army.
On the day he signed with the 49ers, Alexander was on the field at Levi’s Stadium for photos and interviews. Afterward, he went over to meet a group of young children taking part in the STEAM program. He shook hands, bumped fists and posed for pictures.
He has a son of his own. He considers himself a role model for all the kids back home in Anniston, which also happens to be the hometown of new 49ers edge rusher Dee Ford.
“It’s a difficult place,” he said. “A lot of people don’t make it out. Everybody says that. But back at home, a lot of people don’t make it out. That’s why I’m so happy to play with Dee because we both made it out.
“We can show kids back at home that it’s possible. Whatever you put your mind to you can do. We’re the big picture now, so they can see that and have a great mindset.”
Alexander had three outstanding seasons, including a Pro Bowl appearance, upon entering the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick from LSU. But midway through his contract year, he sustained a torn ACL. Afterward, then-Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter referred to Alexander as the “heart and soul” of the team.
The timing of the injury appeared to be disastrous – potentially robbing him of the opportunity to secure a big contract. But Alexander said he never lost faith.
“I’ll never question God. Look where I’m at now,” Alexander said. “I’ve been hurt and I still got what I wanted. It’s amazing. That’s why I put all my faith in Him. And when you have faith in Him, you can do whatever you want to do.”
Alexander’s rehabilitation appears to be going well. He has been running on a treadmill for more than a month. Lynch said the 49ers’ medical staff was thorough with the physical examination, and the official signing turned into a family experience.
“Our doctors came out feeling good about it,” Lynch said. “And that excited us even more because we got to the point where we were signing a contract with his parents, Peaches and Brod, on Facetime. It was fun.”
Alexander said his mind is at ease, and he is not putting any kind of timetable on his return to the football field.
“I wake up every day happy, smiling,” he said. “I’m taking it day by day. Whenever it’s time, it’s time.”