When Lorenzo Alexander isn't out on a football field setting the standard for how you play special teams in the NFL, he's in the community setting the standard for how football players can use their fame to make the world a better place. That's why he was the Redskins' 2011 Walter Payton Man of the Year - and he was in 2010 as well. Alexander continues to dive headlong into the Washington D.C. and Oakland communities with his A.C.E.S. (Accountability, Community, Education, Sports) Foundation, and with The National Alliance of African American Athletes (The Alliance).
Zo, or the One Man Gang, as he is often fondly referred to, will be putting on a benefit this Friday night, February 17th, at Lucky Strike Bowling in Los Angeles. The event will help raise critical funds for programs by The Alliance and Zo will be joined for two hours of bowling, food, and beverages, by fellow Alliance members Justin Blalock (Atlanta Falcons), Ted Ginn Jr. ( San Francisco 49ers), Mohamed Massaquoi (Cleveland Browns), Gerald McCoy (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Ben Tate (Houston Texans), and Everson Griffen (Minnesota Vikings). It's a great opportunity to not only meet and network with some of your favorite NFL athletes, but to do a lot of good as well with your donations.
Why Bowling as a charitable venue for the 275 pound linebacker?
"Bowling is fun and easy to play for all skill levels. It is also an environment that is social and competitive, but still laid back," Alexander stated.
Lorenzo Alexander competitive? His play on an NFL field would bear that out - the guy is a one man wrecking crew on special teams where competitive spirit might most be on display - but how about on the comfy, social, laid back lanes of a bowling alley? Can he bowl at all? Who of the elite group of athletes listed above bowls best, and what is their top score?
"That would be me," Alexander told THN, as proudly as if he had just gently spiked a kick returner on his head at the 12-yard line. "240. Seven strikes in a row."
No competitive nature on display at all; and obviously a pretty decent bowler as well.
The Bowling event is just one element of a weekend of festivities known as the Watkins Teen Summit put together by The Alliance, "an entire weekend youth camp, fundraiser and gala," Alexander said. The highlight of which, is on Saturday night at the prestigious Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, California. The Alliance will recognize another outstanding group of high school athletes from across the nation, in presenting the Franklin D. Watkins Memorial Award. Since 1992, the Watkins Award has been presented annually to African American scholar-athletes on the basis of their unweighted grade point average, their personal statements, extracurricular activities, community service, and letters of recommendation. Named for Franklin D. Watkins, a coach of championship football and basketball teams in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the Watkins Award is the start, or maybe the middle part, of great things for many of these young men. While each of the six final nominees will be recognized in Los Angeles, and receive an award, and a ring, as well as a dinner in their hometown, according to Alexander, none of these young men know who the final Award recipient will be.
Zo would know. As a senior in high school, he was a finalist for the award in 2001.
"I love coming back because it's like a reunion every year. You have a chance to catch up and see how people have grown, and what they're doing on and off the field. It's like a fraternity."
A fraternity that together is, and has been doing great things for great young men, for more than twenty years.
Former Redskin Lavar Arrington is in that fraternity and is on the guest list for Saturday night's big gala event as well - he's also a former Watkins Award nominee (1998). Not-so-coincidentally, Alexander will be working with Arrington on his pass rush skills this offseason as well. Zo said he intends to do the same as he did in the 2011 offseason, "Getting with Lavar again and just working hands, technique and strategy. I saw improvement last year after working with him, but never had a real opportunity to put it in action on a consistent basis."
Of course, there's also a lot more community work on the offseason calendar for Alexander as well. In California, he has another bowling event scheduled for March 17th in Albany, a Mother's Day Brunch in May, the "Hold The Line Youth Camp" (Ages 8-18) in June, and a Back to School Giveaway in August.
He's even busier in the Washington community. In May, Alexander is putting on the All Pro Youth Camp for 6th-12th Grade students, and in June, he's putting on the same camp for elementary school students, hosting a Single Parent Brunch, and having a Back to School Giveaway.
His next local event is actually the 'Ride To Provide' on April 21st in Reston, Virginia. Teaming up with the Healing Heroes Network, Alexander and Redskins teammates Kedric Golston, Anthony Armstrong, and Rocky McIntosh, will join Healing Military Heroes for the 3rd Annual Ride. Starting at Reston Town Center, participants will do a 10-mile, 20-mile, 35-mile or 53-mile ride; and they will be joined by other local personalities like Kelli Johnson, Mike Wise, Holden Kushner, Chris Russell, Dave Feldman, and The Hogettes. The event will help raise money for A.C.E.S. and for the Ride 2 Recovery program.
So how can people get involved and help out?
"Obviously monetary donations are the most impactful and hardest to come by, especially during the recession. If people or organizations want to get involved go to either naaaa.com or lorenzoalexander.org and read our mission to see how we are impacting the community. Then if you want to help it is as easy as clicking donate."
A lot of what A.C.E.S. accomplishes is with the help of community mentors. All good charitable ventures need good people, and A.C.E.S. is no different in that sense. "A lot of mentors are found in your social circle," Alexander said, adding, "I find that when doing positive work in the community people contact you to volunteer time or you meet people in the field trying to accomplish the same goals, and you build relationships from there."
Together with the mentors, Zo and the A.C.E.S. Foundation, which is actually a chapter of The Alliance, focus on programs that prepare students for college. They utilize athletes as catalysts to inspire leadership, while recognizing and rewarding academic, athletic, and community excellence.
Noble philanthropic work.
Philanthropy that according to Alexander, can be partly or substantially attributed to "My lord and savior for placing someone like my Uncle Steve in my life; who not only served as a father figure in my life, but was a mentor to countless high school athletes. Often times going above and beyond the call of duty."
Alexander continues to go beyond the call of duty in both the Washington D.C. and Oakland communities. He is active on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and is always accessible to the communities that he is supporting.
There are active members of the community, and then there are pillars.
The difference is that the latter inspire people to be the former.
Lorenzo Alexander is a pillar of not just one community, but of two.
Uncle Steve is surely proud.
Notes: Lorenzo's Website - www.lorenzoalexander.org
The Alliance - naaaa.com
Healing Heroes - http://www.healingheroes.org/
Ride To Provide - http://ridetoprovide.org
Ride 2 Recovery - http://ride2recovery.com/
Follow me on Twitter @TheHogsdotNet and follow Lorenzo @onemangang97 and @aces_foundation