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The former Wolverine talks about his new
career in the NFL
Despite playing alongside
Desmond Howard, one of only two
Michigan Heisman Trophy winners,
Derrick Alexander still managed to
become one of the finest Wolverine
receivers in recent memory. Aftersuf-
fering a knee injury which kept him
t of the 1991 season, Alexander
Tent on to lead the Wolverines in
receptions and receiving yardage in
his last two seasons. AnAll-American
in 1992, Alexander ended his career
at Michigan as the school's fourth
all-time leading receiver.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Detroit
native has since gone on to the Na-
tional Football League as a member of
Rie Cleveland Browns, who selected
e wide receiver in the first round of
the1994Draft. Recently, Daily sports
writer Darren Everson spoke with
Alexander about both his current and
former teams, and how they mightfare
in the upcoming season.
Daily: In recent years, some first-
round NFL Draft picks have had tough
seasons, because they held out before
reporting to training camp. Desmond
oward is a good example. You held
t for awhile before signing and didn't
see action in the Browns' first game.
Do you or the coaches think the hold-
out has affected your play?
Alexander: I don't know. I didn't
play against Cincinnati last week but I
should play a lot more soon. I'm get-
ting a chance this weekend - they
told me that they were going to let me
ay. Icamein (to camp) after 19 days
t I wasjust trying to get the deal that
Iwanted; itwasn'tthatIdidn't wantto
be here. It just went back and forth for
a while, but once I had got what I
wanted, I came into camp.
D: Since you did miss some work-
out time in thepreseason,youprobably
have to work a little harder to get some
playing time. Is there any particular
,lea in your game that you've been
A: The one area that I work on
every day after practice is running
routes and getting out of my cuts
right. A lot of times I get traveling too
fast, come out of cuts and I'm leaning
back and not in a good position to
make a catch. I definitely need to
work on getting outofmy cuts. That's
the biggest thing for me right now.
D: Is there any particular player in
leveland who has been helpful in
getting you ready to play at this level?
A: I'm second (on the depth chart)
behind Mark Carrier, and so I watch
him a lot. (Quarterback) Vinny
Testaverde has also been helping me
out a lot.
D: Testaverde has a lot of pressure
on him as he tries to replace Bernie
Kosar, who certainly wasn't having a
eat season last year but still was
efinitely a fan favorite. Players, fans
and sportswriters everywhere have
questioned Testaverde's qualities as a
leader ever since he came into the
league; what are your impressions of
him thus far?
A: I think he's a real good leader.
He controls the offense and he really
has been a big help to me so far. I think
him as the leader of our offense.
e've got good special teams, too,
which will help him out. That's a big
part of our game. I think special teams
are going to help us out a lot this year.
D: The Testaverde move was just
one more reason for Browns fans to
dislike head coach Bill Belichek, who
has been under fire forquite sometime
now. The Browns did look pretty good
in the preseason, however, and you
managed to win your opening game
against Cincinnati. Doyoufeel the fans
will start to accept Belichek more?
A: Yeah, I think everyone is a little
more comfortable out here. I think the
players have adjusted to him, and we
know what we're doing out there. The
biggest thing is that the fans are starting
to see it, both in our preseason games
and our first game.
D: I realize that the season is just
underway, but how do you think the
Browns' division, the AFC Central,
there are any different things that they
do in the NFC that they wouldn't do in
D: You are just one in a growing
class ofex-Wolverines in thepros these
days. Jim Harbaugh, Chris Calloway
and several others are now beginning
to make an impact in the league. Why
are former Michigan football players
becoming so successful now in the
NFL when they weren't before?
A: With the guys we had on our
team at Michigan, it wasn't really a
D: In your last season as a Wol-
verine, the team had higher expecta-
tions than any other Michigan team in
recent memory. After falling to Notre
Dame, it seemed as if everyone -
whether they were on the team or not
- was down on Michigan football.
What was it about that game that
managed to turn a whole season sour?
A: I was hurt and I didn't get a
chance to play in that game. That's
what hurt me the most. I didn't think
that that one game made our season so
bad. I just think
that we under-
y people - the
u l than we thought
: they could. I
don't think we
did the things
that we were
supposed to do
in order to win.
D: In the
past few years,
Michigan in the
same breath as
gan and the
Miamis and the
s Florida States
of the world is
plete a full sen-
r," ines, on the
' x___11 otherhand,pre-
DOUGLAS KANTER/Daily tend they've
never heard of
such a thing. Why is Michigan is so
low-key about being number one?
A: We always feel that we can
compete for the national champion-
ship. We talk about it amongst our-
selves; it's just one thing that we
don't like to brag about. I think our
coaches coach it that way. We just
want to play at our best. If we do
happen to win a national champion-
ship, that would be fine. But we're
not going to go out in the press and
say that we're going to win the na-
D: Any predictions for the Big
Ten this season?
A: I think it's going to be a tough
conference this year. There's a lot of
teams there that have a pretty good
shot; (the Wolverines) are going to
have a battle. By the time they get
through these three non-conference
games, though, they'll be ready for
the Big Ten.
~ Bach's Score
South U walk -is a true
R emy Hamilton thrust his hands into the air as if launching a boa
constrictor from his shoulders.
The football he had just kicked to give Michigan a 26-24 victory over
Notre Dame had not yet crossed the plane of the uprights, but he knew it would.
On the sidelines Todd Collins, his eyeblack streaked with nervous sweat,
leaped and screamed like he has never done before. Immediately after the
sweetest football victory in recent memory, the celebration began.
And, as ifthrough fiber optic wire, it sped to Ann Arbor. Thejolt ofjoy arrived
immediately, before those two seconds lazily ticked away. And instantly,
instinctively, the students knew what to do.
They strolled from off-campus apartments, climbing shoes strapped on. They
sprinted from faraway dorms, hoarse from "Woooooo!"s by the time they reached
Ulrich's. They jogged, hats backward, streaming "M" flags behind them.
The crowd swelled in the dramatic shadows of dusk, people squinting away
the eye-level sunlight. Itebbed toward South Forrest, the movement's epicenter,
and grew until it filled the space through East University.
There were shouts of "Let's Go Blue!" and spontaneous rounds of "The
Victors." The air smelled of sweet leaves and cloudless sky, and no one seemed
to know it was dinnertime.
In a pause in activity, one guy said, "What do we do now?"
This has happened before. Five years ago, when the basketball team beat
Illinois to advance to the Final Four, students flooded South University. Steve
Fisher's head coaching career wasjust weeks old, and Michigan had notexpected
to advance so far. Less than a week later, the street was filled again, this time with
celebrants of a national championship. After a car was overturned and several
storefront windows broken, the damage was assessed at $100,000.
Three years ago, the night before Michigan beat Notre Dame 24-14 in Ann
Arbor, there was another gathering. But the cops landed on the scene, and so did
excessive amounts of tear gas.
That spring, when a Fab Five-enhanced basketball squad beat Cincinnati,
store owners braced themselves for more violence. The fears were mostly
unfounded, as an estimated 6,000 street fans remained peaceful. Said Ann Arbor
Police Department Sergeant Mark Hoornstra, "We've given the streets to the
But when the losses returned, so did the tear gas. Michigan's loss to Duke in
the '92 final made for an ornery group of 2,000 on South U. Some students said
the gassing was unnecessary, that the police werejust flexing their muscle.
A year later, the Safe Celebration Task Force prepared for the second
consecutive Final Four trip by setting up viewing areas in local bars and at Crisler
"We're trying to create a new tradition for students to celebrate in an area that
isn't full of plate-glass windows," vice-president for student affairs Maureen
Hartford said. But the tradition remained.
Police in riot gear greeted the 12,000 who gathered after Michigan beat
Kentucky to earn a second trip to the championship game. Students uprooted stop
signs and set off smoke bombs. Two people were seriously injured.
After the loss to North Carolina, the crowd was much smaller, but angrier and
more intoxicated. Fans challenged police, who bellowed through megaphones
orders to disperse.
Whether they were for football or basketball, all past gatherings had one thing
in common: they were spontaneous, and they had an undercurrent of violence.
The meeting Saturday in the early evening September sun wasjust spontane-
ous. There were no harsh night lights, no packed bars spilling with belligerent
Peoplewere thereto bask in the glowofa long-awaited victory. They grinned,
summer tans fading, because it was still warm outside despite the crisping of the
leaves. They slapped hands with strangers. And they floated in an out of the
swarm,just thinking, "We won."
That's all the game provided, really. Sure, the football team is still in the hunt
for a national championship. And yes, the win will help immeasurably when it
comes time to recruit in Indiana. But to the average student, it was a chance to
become a frenzied, bear-hugging fan. A chance to make a new tradition.
The next time the feeling moves you, grab an 'M' flag and head out.
What do you do then? You take the streets. Because you're a Michigan
student, and you belong there.
-Bach's Score will appear in this space every other SPORTSMonday.
sizes up this year? Most of the so-
called experts were picking Pitts-
burgh, but after they were manhandled
by the Cowboys.at home, the division
looks a little more wide-open.
A: Yeah, itis wide open, butlthink
we've got a good enough team to win
the Central. I-think anyone can win
this division. We've all only played
one game, so we haven't been able to
see them. After we play a couple of
games, I think we'll be able to tell a
little bit more about how the Central
is going to be.
D: How about the rest ofthe league?
A: It's kind of early right now, but
the way San Francisco played last
Monday, they've gotareal good chance
to take it. It will still be a good game
between Dallas and San Francisco if
they end up playing each other. (The
AFC) is going to be a tough confer-
ence. The AFC is always a tough con-
ference -especially the Central. It's
real competitive and there are a lot of
D: It seems like there might be a
gap in the level ofplay between the two
conferences, now that the AFC hasn't
won a Super Bowl in over a decade.
Have you noticed any significant dif-
ferences in the style of play between
the NFC and AFC?
A: Ididn'teven know that theAFC
hadn't won (the Super Bowl) in so
long, but I don't really think it's any
worse. Ijust got here, but I don't think
big surprise that they're here now.
(The Wolverines) play more of a pro-
style offense, and as far as I was
concerned, it wasn't very hard for me
to pick up on the Browns' system. We
have a lot of good athletes (at Michi-
gan), it's just a matter of learning
what you're supposed to do.
D: One of your ex-teammates,
Walter Smith, recently suffered a
knee injury much like yours in 1991, '
an injury that requires an entire year
to rehabilitate. You had a year of
eligibility left; he has none. He still
talks about playing, though - in
the NFL. Do you feel that it is pos-
sible to make such a huge jump like
the one that Smith might attempt?
A: I talked to him after the Boston
College game and I think it was the
exact same injury. It depends. I mean,
first of all, it depends on if he works
hard enough and gets his knee back in
shape. If that happens, I think he'll
have a good chance.
4r meeting with aucitions to follow
WP al II £III
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