By Chris McCarthy/Editor
Tim Alexander had a simple and direct message for the Southside High football team on Sept. 3.
Take nothing for granted.
The former E.B. Erwin High School football standout and UAB graduate, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident as a high school senior in October of 2006, exhorted the Panthers to work as hard as they can in order be the best they can be, both on and off the gridiron.
“The Bible says, ‘To whom much is given, much is required,’ said Alexander, who is on track to earning his masters degree in December. “I came from a very low-income neighborhood, and I didn’t have a lot, so when I did get something, I appreciated it that much more.
“Where I was from, I saw people get shot, I saw people get beat up and I saw people’s shoes get taken off their feet. When I went home from football practice, I had to worry about bullets coming through the window.”
Alexander also stressed the importance of the team as an extended family.
“You’re selling yourself short if you don’t hang out, because the Bible says, ‘How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.’ You have to be serious about what you expect out of yourself and what you expect out of your teammates.”
Alexander shared the story that as a youngster when one of his coaches accused him of being too slow, his brother had the neighbor’s dog chase him.
“I was jumping over cars and everything else, and those dogs never gave up,” he said. “That taught me to never, ever quit at something. When everyone else was inside playing video games, I was outside running.”
Alexander’s commitment and behavior regressed during junior high, however, and received a reality check prior to his freshman year.
“My high school coach told me that all I wanted to do was chase girls, be the class clown and just say that I was a part of the football team. He told me that I had lots of talent and ability but I didn’t want to put in the work.
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But he said that he believed in me, and right then, I made the decision to put my family, my team, my school and my community on my back.”
Alexander started his 10th and 11th grade years, and by the time his senior year rolled around, he was the eighth-ranked prospect in the state. His focus on football was total, even going to the extreme of not socializing with any girls during the season.
“I knew where I was going, and I had to stay on the right path,” he said.
But Alexander’s football career ended a day after the Week 8 of the 2006 regular season, when Erwin defeated Gardendale to secure a spot in the state playoffs.
“I went from to being one of the best football players in the state who just helped his team make the playoffs one day to being paralyzed from the neck down the next, ” he said.
Needless to say, Alexander’s numerous scholarship offers fell by the wayside, along with many of his friends and teammates.
“No one wanted to spend time with me except my mom, my brother, my coach and my pastor,” he said. “But the Bible says that if you can believe all things are possible…it’s according to your belief,’ so I start acting in faith.”
Upon enrolling in UAB, Alexander convinced coach Garrick McGee to put him on the football roster. While the Blazer ran routes and hit blocking sleds, Alexander was doing push-ups and sit-ups on the sideline while encouraging his teammates.
Alexander undertook an important mission in De-cember of 2013 when the UAB football, bowling and rifle programs were eliminated.
“The day we lost the program, I told the all the coaches, trainers and the players that I would fight to get it back,” he said. “For the next six months, all I talked about was to Free UAB.”
During that time, Alexander visited 45 Birmingham-area communities in speaking engagements, noting that he raised $25 million dollars to help restore the three defunct programs last year.
“All of you still have the opportunity to play the game you love,” he said. “Do you just want to be a part of this team or do you really want to do something great for your school? If you do, your championship mentality starts right now.”