The yearly NFL Draft is Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve all rolled into one for the nation’s football junkies. It doesn’t get much better for fans than watching who gets picked, who does not, how early they get picked and for which team.
Among this year’s class of rookies are some pretty impressive tales of hard work, perseverance, and determination. But if you read between the lines, there is a whole lot more going on than just football.
The Philadelphia Eagles scored big with the pick up of Alejandro Villanueva, a six foot nine inch defensive lineman from Army. In 2009 he led his team in receptions with 34. He racked up 522 yards and 5 touchdowns. But Villanueva’s impressive record goes beyond football. He has spent the last four years on active duty in the U.S. Army. During his first tour in Afghanistan, he received a Bronze Star Medal of Valor for moving forward under enemy fire and pulling wounded soldiers from an isolated position. When he came home, he volunteered for the Army Rangers Program. He returned to the Middle East for two more tours of duty in Afghanistan.
Mo Alexander will be returning to work at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, but in a very different capacity. Before the Rams made their historic move in the seventh round by picking Michael Sam, they chose Alexander, a safety from Utah State in the fourth round. Mo has a fascinating story of his own, and it is a testament to making the best of second chances. Two years ago, while at a party, Alexander got into a physical altercation with a teammate. He punched the teammate in the face, was arrested, and sentenced to a year in jail. The sentence was later reduced to 45 days, but he was kicked off the team, forced to leave school, and come home to St. Louis. Once at home, he got a job as a janitor at the Edward Jones Dome, home of the Rams. Mo Alexander says that being around that field every day motivated him to deal with his sentence, and get through the rough patch in his life he was going through. He says that it was a mistake, but also “a lesson learned. It made me the man I am today”. He also says that he and the teammate he fought with are good friends today.
In 2013, he returned to Utah State, and was named Honorable Mention All-Mountain West Conference Player. Last week, the local kid from Eureka High School was picked to play for his hometown team, the Rams. Mo Alexander says it is a dream come true.
But if you had just dropped in to America for a brief visit from Mars, you would never know that these stories existed. You would think that the only newsworthy story was that of Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player to be drafted by an NFL team. You would think that Michael Sam’s achievement was the only noteworthy one of this year’s draft. You would think that acceptance and tolerance are the only things that matter.
Well, you don’t even have to have come from as far as Mars. The fact is, no one really knows about the remarkable stories of Alejandro Villanueva and Mo Alexander. We already know who runs the mainstream news media and what their leanings and agenda are. It seems that the liberal agenda is slowly seeping into sports media as well. All one has to do is find someone who has the slightest differing opinion of Michael Sam and his introduction to pro football. Just ask Donald Jones of the Miami Dolphins.
After the announcement of the Rams draft pick of Sam, Jones took to social media to voice his opinion. Since his opinion may not have been considered “mainstream”, not only was he forced to delete his postings, but is now being sent to “educational training”. Is that like “re-education camp”?
When an American hero like Alejandro Villanueva, and a guy who made the most of his second chance like Mo Alexander are not recognized for the excellent role models they are, but instead are pushed to the side in lieu of making sure that the whole world saw Michael Sam kiss his boyfriend in celebration of his phone call from the Rams, it makes a disturbing statement on just exactly where our cultural priorities lie. And if you happen to disagree with said priorities, make sure you pack your toothbrush to take with you to get-your-mind-right camp. We live in a dangerous time for many reasons.
Maybe Michael Sam is courageous to some. Guys who are willing to serve their country and take their punishments like men after making mistakes in life before living out their football dreams, they not only embody courage, they embody character. It could be that it is time for the NFL to revisit the term “sportsmanlike conduct”.