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Louisville Cornerback Jaire Alexander: ‘I Separate Confidence From Arrogance’

After boosting his draft stock at the combine, the Louisville CB says he’s in the right condition, physically and mentally, for the NFL—and he won’t get lost in the sauce

After putting on an impressive performance in Indianapolis, Louisville’s Jaire Alexander boosted his chances of being drafted in the first round, with some analysts even positing that he may be selected as high as top-10 come April. On Thursday, Alexander talked with The MMQB about the show he put on at the combine, his belief that he’s the best corner in the draft, the difference between “juice” and “sauce” and his maybe-sort-of-not-really dream of swimming with alligators.

The MMQB: You ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, had the third fastest 20-yard shuttle (3.98), fourth-longest broad jump (10'7") and fifth-fastest three-cone (6.71) for your position. Heading into the week, what did you want to prove at the combine?

Alexander: I wanted to prove that I was healthy. (Editors note: Alexander missed about half of the 2017 season with leg and hand injuries.) That was the biggest goal, to come in and show that I was healthy and able to participate in all of the drills and being able to compete with everyone else. I wanted to showcase that, and what better way to do that than at the combine.

The MMQB: Any of those events at the combine that you are most proud of or that surprised you to see how well you performed?

Alexander: I’d say the shuttle. My legs were heavy at that time. I was able to do a sub-four-seconds in the shuttle. The guy looked at me after and said that’s the best shuttle time we’ve had so far. I was like, dang. And I did that in sweatpants. I probably should have took them off. But I did that in sweatpants. I was actually pretty surprised at that one.

The MMQB: Was your injury history and any durability concerns something that you were asked by teams? What was your response to that?

Alexander: I was asked that question left and right. If I had a dollar for every time I heard that question, I’d have a lot of money. I assured them that I was healthy and that I was participating in everything in the combine.

The MMQB: What was your pitch to teams on why they should draft you?

Alexander: I would tell them that they are getting a leader, a natural born leader, a guy who projects leadership qualities on and off the field. I’d tell them they are getting a competitor and a hard worker and a guy with confidence, a guy that plays with confidence. That shows on his film. I made sure that I separated confidence from arrogance. I play with a bunch of confidence. I made sure they knew it was confidence I was playing with, and I always play with a chip on my shoulder.

The MMQB: I’ve heard you call yourself the best cornerback in the draft before. Is that fair to say?

Alexander: I definitely think I’m the best corner. I’ve been thinking that for a while, in the humblest way. I just feel like there are certain things that I do well that others can’t. And there are certain things that I don’t allow that others do allow. It’s apparent if you watch this season, if you watch film. It shows and separates me from others. I’m versatile. I can cover a man and return punts, all in one. The best of both worlds.

The MMQB: Where does that confidence come from?

Alexander: Just being able to see different corners play the game over time. Coming into college, I was an athlete, and switching to corner, I didn’t always have that confidence. But just studying my position and seeing others play the game, that’s when it hit me. That’s when it came to me.

The MMQB: If you boiled it down to one thing, what would you say is your best quality on the football field?

Alexander: I’d definitely say versatility. Being able to play corner, nickel, outside, inside and being able to return. Returning is one of my favorite things to do and something I am pretty good at, and something I can become even better at. I assured teams that I can do it all. Turn my film on and they were able to see that, as well. They knew I could play outside and inside, that wasn’t a problem for me and that’s something I really want to do.

The MMQB: You were the 941st-ranked recruit in your high school class, the 85th corner and the 13th on your own high school team in 2015.  Why were you so under-recruited?

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Alexander: Growing up I always felt like I was sleeper athlete. Primarily because I moved around postions a lot, I didn’t run the fastest times at camp, and I didn’t pass the “eye test” all the time. It’s understandable, but with that being said, I always play with a chip on my shoulder knowing that teams passed up on me. It only propelled me to go harder and be able to prove to people that I am something that they missed out on. 

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The MMQB: What’s been the biggest improvement for you coming to Louisville as a freshman three years ago and now?

Alexander: Being able to understand concepts. Being able to know what the opponent likes to do. Film study has been a big thing, studying my opponents’ tendencies, knowing what they like to do.

The MMQB: You had a quote last season that said you “brought the juice and everyone else brought the sauce … The juice is the juice. The sauce is the sauce.” What is the difference between the juice and the sauce?

Alexander: Oh man, okay. Juice. You fill up your cup, you got some juice in it. You make some food, you throw some sauce in there. You put it together, you got the food with the sauce and you got the cup with the juice, that’s a perfect meal. That’s a perfect combination. That’s what it was. You got the juice and you got the sauce.

The MMQB: So you are the juice and teammates were the sauce? Or do you have both the juice and the sauce?

Alexander: It’s a team effort. It’s a little bit of both. You just can’t get lost in the sauce.

The MMQB: Describe your ideal off day, completely removed from football.

Alexander: I like to say I’m pretty adventurous. I like to be outdoors. Bike riding. I enjoy going to the movies a bunch. I’ll see a movie twice. Do a little bit of yoga here and there. Yoga is pretty cool, calming. Anything dealing with outdoors I like to do. Whether that be fishing, riding on a jet ski. Or swimming with alligators, which I’ve never done but I’m going to throw that one out there as riveting. 

The MMQB: So you want to go swimming with alligators?

Alexander: Um, not really. But that’s just an example of being outdoors. That’s an extreme one. I don’t want to do that. Let’s make that dolphins or something friendly.

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The MMQB: Heard your family is tight-knit. Who is in your inner circle?

Alexander: My mom and dad, my siblings, my grandparents. They come to all the games. They haven’t missed a game, I don’t think they’ve ever missed a game. My mom might have missed one, but other than that they came to every game. When I say she might have missed one game, that’s way back in Pop Warner. They travel everywhere I go. They are really important to me, they are my biggest support system.

The MMQB: What’s the best piece of advice you ever got from someone in that circle?

Alexander: Your work ethic can take you a long way, my dad would always preach that to me. Being able to work harder than the man beside you or the man in front of you, it will separate you in the long run. And always keep a chip on your shoulder.

The MMQB: What is something that people don’t know about you?

Alexander: I’m on a journey to find positivity in every situation. That’s something I like to preach on, something I’ve been practicing for a while now. Just remaining positive in circumstances that may require you to be negative. Just practicing leading a positive life and certainly things will go the way you want them to go.

The MMQB: What are your thoughts when you see that NFL teams asked your teammate Lamar Jackson—one of the best quarterbacks in the NCAA during his collegiate career—if he wanted to work out as a receiver, and hear the calls from some media members for him to switch positions in the NFL?

Alexander: I don’t agree with that at all. I’ve been asked what do I think he should play, and I’ve always said quarterback. I kind of make a face when I answer the question, because I think that’s pretty ridiculous for somebody to want him to play receiver. He is the best quarterback I have ever seen play the game. He’s a leader, he’s humble, he’s a team player, he has all the quarterback attributes and he gets better each year.

The 2018 NFL Draft Big Board, Vol. 2

Rapid fire

Favorite Movie:National Security
Most recent movie seen in theaters: Black Panther, twice
Favorite TV show: “The Office”
Favorite actor: Denzel Washington
Favorite actress: Angela Bassett 
Favorite food: Chicken Alfredo
Best memory from football: In Little League I left game during halftime, then went to another team in a different league and played in another game.
Achievement most proud of: Florida State game, because we dominated.
NFL corners whose games you admire: Jalen Ramsey, Marcus Peters
You can go out to dinner with any three people, living or dead: Jay Z, Michael Jackson, Sydney McLaughlin (track star)
First purchase with NFL paycheck: Buy my parents a house

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