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ASU Football: Arizona State Football Recruit Junior Alexander Knew He’d Be a Pac-12 Player, His Coaches Put him on the Right Path

ASU commit Junior Alexander always knew he wanted to play in the Pac-12.
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An ambitious eighth-grader made his future intentions clear while touring Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, Washington. Lonyatta “Junior” Alexander told head football coach Sheldon Cross that he wanted to become a Pac-12 football player.

Alexander, now an incoming senior, had grown up going to University of Washington games in Seattle. Seeing the crowds and rivalries first hand gave him something to shoot for.

With Cross and his staff’s help, Alexander has the chance to take the field for coach Herm Edwards and Arizona State University starting in 2021.

When Cross heard Alexander’s ambitions, he didn't dismiss them.

“That created a vision for him and we knew it would happen,” Cross said. “So, every day we talked to him as if he would become this Pac-12 football player and so there was a unique bond there. We would have conversations about how this would work or that would work or how to act this way because eventually, a coach would love you but he’ll expect you to act this way in the weight room and in a classroom.”

As a receiver, Alexander had the physical gifts to succeed on Cross’ team from the get-go.

He started in Week 1 of his freshman year. In his third game, he caught a game-winning heave in between two defenders in the end zone as time expired.

Alexander said he's always had good ball skills. But, he also stated that he was hard-headed when he arrived at high school.

Cross described Alexander as having an infectious personality, including a contagious smile. He used the word goofy. But, Alexander had to learn when the time to laugh was and when he should be locked in.

A key for Cross was that he did not want to tailor to this great talent, he wanted to develop him as a Pac-12 player and a coachable person.

“He and I had some really, really good talks but if you walked in, it would be shocking to hear how real those talks were,” Cross said. “It was almost like he was crying out for the truth, he wanted to hear the truth, he wanted to be the best version of himself he could be.”

Alexander’s teammate Justin Baker noticed his growth over time.

“People will say any person has obviously grown,” Baker said. “But Junior, the amount he’s matured has been insane. He used to get frustrated a lot but the older he got he started to work so much harder.

“Technically he was a better receiver. But then mentally, his game was much better. He could focus and lock in and get ready to make a big play.”

After three years of working on himself on and off the field, the four-star recruit got the chance to decide essentially whichever Pac-12 school he wanted to attend.

Eight out of the 12 programs offered him a scholarship, including both Washington and Arizona schools, according to 247Sports.

He grew up going to Huskies games and his KCHS quarterback Sam Huard and fellow receiver Jabez Tinae already committed to UW.

But, Alexander wanted something different.

“I wanted to try something new and branch out and do my own thing,” Alexander said. “It was a tough decision, growing up going to Washington games. It's kind of crazy going out of state but I know I'm making the right choice for myself.”

Alexander was attracted to ASU’s coaching staff.

Cross said that Alexander loved Edwards along with receivers coaches Prentice Gill and Derek Hagan. The young wideout also stated that he was impressed that ASU has had a receiver drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft in consecutive years (N’Keal Harry and Brandon Aiyuk respectively).

Through his relationships with his coaches and teammates, Alexander has a bond to his school. It’s why he still wants to play for them during his senior year.

Washington high school football was pushed back to the spring, which makes for a difficult decision for college-bound players who would have two seasons with just a summer in between. Alexander said he thought about playing in another state this fall, but he can’t leave his team, his family behind.

“Looking at it and playing these three years with all my bros, I can’t leave like that,” Alexander said. “I'll definitely stick it out and finish and hopefully win a ring in the spring.”

Cross feels like Alexander can create a similar dynamic with his coaches and teammates at ASU. He described that Alexander has a strong care for his school and will replicate that in Tempe. This reason, along with his play, is why Cross said Alexander will be a fan favorite in the Valley.