Imposing San Diego Chargers wide receiver Danario Alexander is a prime example of what perseverance can do for a football player.
Alexander has undergone five surgeries on his left knee, overcoming chronic ailments to emerge as a pivotal, albeit unlikely figure on the Chargers' offense.
Signed as a street free agent earlier this month, Alexander has caught 15 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns in four games and one start since joining the Chargers on Nov. 1
Big, strong and fast at 6-foot-5, 217 pounds, the Waco, Texas native was discarded by the St. Louis Rams in August by the new regime of coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead.
Now, he's starting for the Chargers and taking pressure off of wide receiver Malcom Floyd and tight end Antonio Gates. It's been a splendid pickup for Chargers general manager A.J. Smith while other moves he's made for receivers Robert Meacham and an injured Eddie Royal haven't worked out thus far.
Alexander caught five passes for 134 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Last week, he caught seven passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to the Denver Broncos.
In meeting Alexander at the Senior Bowl three years ago heading into the 2010 NFL draft after he hurt his knee again in a freak accident where one of his cleats chipped the cartilage in his knee while running a pass pattern, I was struck by his positive attitude despite the setback. We stayed in touch as I would interview him periodically about his rehabilitation while he received middling interest from NFL teams except for the Rams and Philadelphia Eagles.
After going undrafted, Alexander signed with the Rams and was eventually promoted from the practice squad when former Ravens wide receiver Mark Clayton got hurt.
Now, the Rams probably wish they had never cut Alexander, who caught 113 passes for 1,781 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior at Missouri. Alexander has caught 61 career passes for 1,028 yards and six touchdowns in the NFL.
And Alexander is no secret to the Ravens, who scouted him when he played for Mizzou and heading into the 2010 NFL draft, and will have to compete with him Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium.
"Alexander is another guy that we really liked," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Friday. "He had the knee problems, and that kind of showed up in St. Louis, but in St. Louis he made phenomenal plays. Very talented guy, he's filled a void for those guys."