Alex Barrett shares how his father's passing keeps him motivated to succeed in the NFL

April 5 in the Barrett household is typically reserved for celebrating the wedding anniversary of Alex Barrett's parents, Audry and Elena; however, this past year was different.

In May of 2018, Alex's father — a lifelong Raider fan — passed away after a battle with Stage Four liver cirrhosis. The past year was understandably difficult for the Barrett family, as they coped with the loss of their beloved father and husband.

Like many kids, Alex idolized his father, taking an interest in anything his father liked. From as early as he can remember, Alex and his father were Raiders fans, along with two of his cousins who were committed members of Raider Nation.

"My cousin, which is pretty much like my uncle — my dad's brother pretty much — die-hard Raiders fan — tattooed," Barrett said. "My other cousin that lives in Las Vegas is [a] die-hard Raiders fan too. When I grew up, my dad knew football and just because my family was fans he was a fan. I got pictures of him in Raiders gear, going to the games back in the day, holding my cousin on her birth wearing a Raiders shirt. Stuff like that, it's just crazy."

It was a connection Alex probably never thought would come full circle, but on April 5, the same day as his parent's wedding anniversary, the Arizona-native was signed by the Silver and Black after an impressive tryout with the team. It was the stroke of good news Alex was overjoyed to share with his mom.

"It was my parents' anniversary, so it was really weird and special," he said. "It's been the first year, well, my father passed away in May of 2018, so it's pretty much my parents first anniversary not together. Just being able to call my mom on that day and say I'm an Oakland Raider was crazy. Literally the same day, April 5. This whole process has been crazy, but it's been fun though."

The road to the Raiders wasn't an easy one, though. Barrett went undrafted out of San Diego State, but landed on the Detroit Lions. He played two games for the Lions in 2017, but spent the majority of the last two seasons on the practice squad before eventually parting ways with the team.

Next up, Barrett took advantage of an opportunity with now-debunked AAF team the San Diego Fleet. It was a coming home of sorts, as Barrett returned to Qualcomm Stadium where he played as an Aztec; it was also where his dad used to watch him play. Combined with the passing of his father, it was an emotional experience for Barrett as he continued to fight for his NFL dreams. Eight weeks into the season, the AAF collapsed, leaving Barrett to ponder his next step.

The Raiders take the fields at the Oakland Raiders Napa Valley Training Complex for another day of Pre-Training Camp.

"It was definitely crazy, it was Week 8 when it folded," Barrett recalled. "I know I gave my all in that league, I played hard every game, every practice I got better. That's what I used that as, it was just another opportunity to show my craft, work on my game, and become a player just to show the league what I can do. Last year, I bounced around the practice squad with the Detroit Lions, and when I heard about the [AAF] I just took it and ran with it. When it folded, I just trusted in the process, and literally that week of, I was out here [in Oakland] for a workout. It was crazy."

Despite a small sample size, Barrett's body of work in the AAF was enough to catch the attention of the Raiders front office, and he proved it was no fluke during his workout. Even though he was at the facility strictly for business, Barrett couldn't help but appreciate where he was.

"It was surreal," he explained. "Coming in you check in the hotel and have the nerves. Don't sleep well the night before, but you go out there and do what you do. I did position workouts with Coach Buckner. It was crazy walking in the building and seeing Raiders, Raiders, Raiders."

Now a few months removed from his tryout, Barrett is focused on making the 53-man roster, and on a defensive line with a lot of youth there's a chance he makes the cut. He's about his business and he's not letting his childhood fandom get to him, although, he does relish the fact his father would be proud.

But he's not done yet.

"I'm not supposed to be here. I'm too small, too short, not fast enough, it's what I've been told my whole life. It's cool and it makes it fun," he said when asked if he has a chip on his shoulder. "I'll let [my game] speak for itself. I'm not going to talk about me, but it'll show on film and game tape. I know I play with all my heart, I put my heart into it, and I play for my teammates."

Somehow, someway, Alex's family always had a feeling he'd wind up in the Silver and Black, and he knows his father is watching over him while repping The Shield.

"I know he's with me. Him and my cousin used to talk about — when I was entering the draft — he's going to play for the Raiders watch," Barrett explained. "It's crazy how life works out, but that's what life is; unexpected and the universe works in mysterious ways."