Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Alexander measures himself against best

Seattle running back always looking for edge

By Tim Korte
The Associated Press

CHENEY, Wash. - When Shaun Alexander carries the ball for the Seattle Seahawks, he simply tries to be himself - and a few great running backs.

He tries to move like Walter Payton, Gale Sayers and Marcus Allen. He also throws in a few parts Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett.

"My style is a mix of four or five running backs," Alexander said Monday. "I have a little bit of everybody inside me. Those are guys whose films I watched sitting around with my dad as a kid."

Always looking for a boost to perform better, Boone County's Alexander has spent his life as an eager student of top running backs. Through the years, he has met several and asked for suggestions.

"As a rookie, I met Earl Campbell," Alexander said. "I've learned from them some of the things I need to do to be one of the elite, and I've learned some of the things I'm already doing that I need to keep up."

It showed in 2002. Alexander took over after the departure of Ricky Watters, starting all 16 games. He set a Seahawks record with 18 touchdowns and gained 1,175 yards, averaging 4.0 yards a carry. Not bad, considering Alexander's offensive line seemed to change each week as Seattle worked through a series of injuries.

"Last year was good but there were things we could have done better as a group," he said. "That's what we're going to shoot for. I'm going to focus on getting the guys going better. There are things I can do to get going better, too."

After a college career where he became Alabama's career leader with 3,565 yards rushing, Alexander was one of five backs drafted in the first round in 2000. None has more than Alexander's 2,806 yards or 32 TDs.

No wonder he's never short on confidence.

"That swagger is important in football. I've got just a hint of it," Alexander said, laughing.

Alexander has made some nice plays in practice, including a corner route to catch a 20-yard TD pass from Matt Hasselbeck. Alexander said he's always trying to perform as close to perfectly as he can.

"My mistake level has to be lower than just about everyone, even Matt's," Alexander said. "Trent Dilfer always tells me my position is almost like being a quarterback when it comes to avoiding mistakes and keeping the mojo flowing."

It's too bad for Alexander that the Seahawks only play one night contest next season, Oct. 12, when the San Francisco 49ers visit. He always seems to be in top form under the bright lights.

Last year, Alexander set an NFL record with five first-half TDs and ran for 139 yards in a Sunday night win over Minnesota. In 2001, he had 266 yards and three TDs at night against Oakland. In a Monday night game as a rookie, he had 74 yards and a TD.

"I guess I just get the ball more in night games," Alexander said. "Night games and national television games, I always seem to get 25 carries or more.

"It's just the way things go. Maybe we're trying trick plays or things just get going for me."

Shaun Alexander's career rushing statistics

2000Seattle Seahawks161643134.9502
2001Seattle Seahawks16123091,3184.38814
2002Seattle Seahawks16162951,1754.05816

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