"Are you serious?"
"What is he thinking?"
"What an idiot!"
Sometime between the end of a team's regular season (generally December 10th) and the January 15th deadline, juniors and redshirt sophomores have a decision to make: Return to their college for another season or make themselves eligible for pro teams and leagues.
I chose those words carefully. many times, juniors who declare have finished their education (so they are staying at the "college" for another "season" mostly). And, at times, underclassmen who declare aren't locks to be in the "NFL Draft", and may not make the league at all.
But, many in the NFL Draft community and in national media, do not choose those words carefully. At times, even I'm guilty of it. Generally, underclassmen who don't have a top two round grade or are a top four round grade running back shouldn't come to school. That's the "rule". And when underclassmen who don't fulfill that "rule" do make themselves eligible for pro teams, they are instantly judged as "stupid", likely have "questionable character", and overall made the "wrong decision".
But it's not all that simple. Not surprising entry into the NFL Draft process has the built up ego that they are often assumed to having. Most players aren't stupid. They know where they stand.
At times, it's an agent or a family friend who will (unfortunately, at times purposely) lead the prospect to believe that his "draft stock" can't get any higher", that some teams really like him.
Alvester Alexander, running back from Wyoming, never had an 800 yard rushing season. He didn't progress statisically after his 792 yard, 14 touchdown season as a sophomore. He wasn't the leading rusher on his own team this season. And in Wyoming, he didn't get national attention.
So as a senior, he would've had the ground work laid to be a potential NFL draft selection, but he would have needed to have a bounce back, 1,000 yard-plus senior season to do so.
But sometimes, in the case of Wyoming running back Alvester Alexander, it's not about persuasion, greed, or ego.
It's about a need.
"I have a talent. I think I can make some team someplace, and hopefully can lead to a better situation for my family. There's just a lot of stuff going on with my family."
Alvester's father is regularly in the hospital, needing treatment for a variety of medical illnesses. While not currently in the hospital, he still needs care at home, a task his mother adds to her plate. She also works full-time to support his medical costs as well as others to support the family.
"It's just a lot going on right now. I think I have the talent to make it to the pros. I know I'm not a hot commodity right now, but I need to, and think I can, make the most of my talents."
It won't be easy.
Forty running backs have been selected in just the past two NFL Draft's. That, combined with the fact that two of the NFL's top rushers this year were undrafted, and team's just aren't putting the position as a premium on draft day.
Along with that, 12 other underclassmen running backs have declared for the NFL draft, making this one of the deepest at the position in a long time.
Those other decisions didn't affect Alvester. No matter what, he plans on "absolutely" finishing his degree at Wyoming. It's very important to him.
But more important that his college degree is the well-being of his family. College students leave school early all the time to get a job, support their family, help out financially. And that's exactly what Alvester's doing. He's just doing it in a working field that has constant media scrutiny and fan speculation.
As a scout, I haven't focused much on Alexander, as I, nor most NFL teams, were assuming he'd be leaving school early. While I will be watching more film in the future, his chances of getting drafted are slim to none right now, but he does have an decent shot at getting a tryout and making a team after the draft.
He'll be training in Dallas at "Competitive Edge Sports" for the NFL Draft process. He said he ran a 4.39 forty-yard dash at Wyoming last year. If he can improve that time, even a little, at a Wyoming Pro Day, in a league where speed is a premium, he could get some NFL looks.
He's facing an uphill battle, no question about that. Would staying at Wyoming for his senior season have helped his chances of making the NFL? Outside of injury, absolutely. Does he wish he could stay in school and finish his degree? No question. Those are the usual procedures and likely the advice he got from coaches and any scouts he spoke with.
But he feels he can't follow the usual procedures. He has the talents now to provide for his family, a family that could use the help financially in a time of hardship.
It's not an easy decision for Alvester. But before fans, NFL Draft fans, and news media critize the players we watch in college and judge their decisions harshly, let's remember that these are young men. Not every player has the story of Alvester Alexander. But before any judges a person's life decision, make sure you know the player, know the story, and appreciate that for these athletes, sports is a job, and a way to provide for one's self and one's family.