As the middle linebacker in the Buccaneers' defense, a lot is asked of Kwon Alexander, despite it being just his second year in the NFL. He's responsible for making all of the defense's calls and getting his teammates lined up, mirroring a quarterback's responsibilities on the offensive side of the ball.
Some young players might shy away from taking on so much responsibility, but Alexander, who finished second on the Buccaneers in tackles a year ago despite playing just 12 games, relishes the opportunity.
"I love Kwon's attitude that he wants to be the Jameis Winston of the defense," Head Coach Dirk Koetter said after Monday's training camp practice, "for him to embrace it - not all guys want that on them but Kwon does. It's awesome."
Alexander arrives to the Buccaneers' facility an hour and a half early every morning, walking in the door at 6:30 a.m. He spends a half hour studying by himself before meeting one-on-one with Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith for about an hour, both study sessions being optional.
"I love how Kwon's working with Smitty (Mike Smith)," Koetter added. "It's great to see when I'm going down the hallway every morning at seven o'clock in the morning and Kwon and Smitty are in there on the chalkboard having a 45 minute 1-on-1. It's awesome to see Smitty sitting at a desk and Kwon standing at the board with a grease pen in his hand - it's awesome. As a guy that's a quarterback coach, to see Smitty and Kwon in there in the mornings does my heart good."
Alexander, the quarterback of Bucs' the defense, is a lot like Jameis Winston, the team's quarterback on the other side of the ball. Both have proven to be relentless workers and both had eye-opening rookie seasons. Winston, who has been known to send motivational quotes and speeches around to his teammates through text messages, said that Alexander has been seeking out some of the league's best to help improve his game. And so far, it's working.
"One person I met was [Dallas Cowboys linebacker] Sean Lee at the Pro Bowl," Winston said. "And I was like, 'Sean, how can I get Kwon to get like you?' From the study points because Kwon always asks me like, 'How do you study?,' and I was like, 'Man, I'm not a middle linebacker, you've got to ask [Carolina Panthers linebacker] Luke Kuechly, or one of the main guys.' So he reached out to Sean Lee, got some information from him. And ever since then, he's been willing to just want to be the quarterback for that defense and he's been doing a great job."
"I get there every morning, it'd be right around 6:30 [a.m.]," Alexander said. "I wake up probabaly about, like 5:10 [a.m.] eat breakfast, then go up there and study for myself probably for like 30 minutes. Then I go up there with him and I get on the board. That's been great, it's making me a better player now. If I'd have been doing that, some good things would come out, so I can't wait for the season and show y'all."