How Kwon Alexander overcame tragedy, adversity to sign with 49ers

How Kwon Alexander overcame tragedy, adversity to sign with 49ers

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.”

[RELATED: 49ers add Kwon Alexander, Dee Ford to defense for 'speed and violence']

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.”

NFL draft: 49ers in market for tight end to pair with George Kittle

NFL draft: 49ers in market for tight end to pair with George Kittle

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Iowa tight end Noah Fant just missed George Kittle on his trip from Iowa to visit the 49ers in Santa Clara this month.

When Fant was in the Bay Area, Kittle was in Iowa City. And around the time Fant returned, Kittle was heading back to California for the beginning of the 49ers’ offseason program.

Fant, who was a teammate of Kittle at Iowa two years ago, is also a tight end. He is expected to be a first-round draft pick. But the 49ers already have one tight end from Iowa, so why did he visit the 49ers?

“They’re trying to get two,” Fant told NBC Sports Bay Area on the eve of the NFL draft. “When they have a guy like George and maybe they draft a guy like me, it’s going to be essentially unguardable. It will be hard to find that many players who can cover two different tight ends who can run like receivers and block and do all of that.”

Kittle, a fifth-round draft pick in 2017, emerged as one of the game’s top young stars last season. He set the NFL single-season record for tight ends with 1,377 yards receiving despite the 49ers playing most of the season with reserve quarterbacks.

“Obviously, playing there with George would be something that’s insanely incredible, and something I would definitely enjoy,” Fant said.

Fant and another Iowa tight end, T.J. Hockenson, could be the first two tight ends selected on Thursday night at the NFL draft. Fant (6-foot-4, 249 pounds) ran a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. In his final two seasons of college, he caught 69 passes for 1,013 and 18 touchdowns.

The 49ers are clearly looking for an upgrade at tight end to create match-up issues for defenses. Fant was one of four draft-eligible tight ends who visited the 49ers in Santa Clara. He got excited when talking about the endless possibilities if he were on the field again with Kittle.

“Try putting a linebacker on us. They’d be too slow,” Fant said. “Try putting a corner on us and we’d be bigger than him. Safeties are a little harder because you could find a good safety like Jamal Adams or Derwin James, so you can get guys like that are going to be good.

“But then you’re bigger than them, and you go to the run game. Having that many different things you could do with a pair of tight ends would be something that would be pretty special. I can definitely see where their vision is with that.”

[RELATED: Lynch's third NFL draft pivotal for 49ers to take next step]

The likelihood of Fant ending up with the 49ers appears remote, unless the 49ers were to make a trade on Thursday. The 49ers’ first pick is No. 2. Their next pick is slated for Friday’s second round (No. 36 overall). Fant is expected to fall somewhere between those spots.

“If they traded back or they traded up from the second,” said Fant, who took visits to nine teams during the pre-draft process. “You never know what could happen. Obviously, I treated that visit like any other job interview. We’ll see what happens.”

NFL draft rumors 2019: Latest news, trade talk before Round 1 picks start

NFL draft rumors 2019: Latest news, trade talk before Round 1 picks start

Thirty-two football players lives will change forever Thursday night when they're drafted by NFL teams. But it isn't a simple process.

The draft order certainly will change, as teams jockey for position to pick the player they really want. Top of the list for many is Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, followed by a host of pass rushers -- Ohio State's Nick Bosa, Alabama's Quinnen Williams and Kentucky's Josh Allen, just to name a few.

The Arizona Cardinals are scheduled to pick first, followed by the 49ers, New York Jets and Raiders. What those four teams do could set the tone for the draft, so there will be lots of news and trade speculation surrounding them.

Follow this live blog through the day, until the start of Round 1 at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET, and see how the dominoes might fall.

1:47: Don't expect the 49ers to draft wide receiver D.K. Metcalf.

1:25 p.m.: Rosen or Murray? Or Bosa? Or Williams? Tough day in Arizona.

12:37 p.m.: Look for the Giants to major players in Round 1.

11:55 a.m.: Is Kyler Murray out of the running?

11:44 a.m.: The Steelers reportedly are interested in making a move up in the draft.

11:04 a.m.: The Cardinals apparently have no idea what they are doing.

10:55 a.m.:  Meanwhile, in Washington ...

10;32 a.m.: Another big-name defensive lineman could be on the move.

10:05 a.m.: Montez Sweat was expected to fall due to a heart condition, but that reportedly might not be the case. 

9:00 a.m.: The 49ers reportedly are shopping one of their recent top draft picks.

7:44 a.m.: Even Josh Rosen has no idea what the Cardinals are going to do.

7:38 a.m.: This seems like a bad idea. 

7:19 a.m.: The Cardinals reportedly have whittled down their choices for the No. 1 overall pick.

6.16 a.m.: Meanwhile, these teams reportedly are looking to trade down,

5:51 a.m.: There are two teams that reportedly could try to move up in the first round.

4:28 a.m.: If the Raiders want to take a quarterback, it might not be Kyler Murray.