Tackle Vadal Alexander
In professional sports, when opportunity comes knocking at your door, you answer it.
Part of what makes being a pro athlete so difficult, is that your job could be here one day, and gone tomorrow. Players work relentlessly day-in and day-out to improve their craft, and if you're lucky, that can earn you some playing time.
For Oakland Raiders tackle Vadal Alexander, it didn't take long for the coaching staff to ask him to contribute. The former LSU Tiger's first appearance on the big stage came in Week 2 against the Atlanta Falcons, and earned his first start two weeks later against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Silver and Black experienced a bit of a rotating door on the right side of the offensive line last season.
With offensive tackles Austin Howard and Menelik Watson still in the mix, the three split time at the position, and Alexander was asked to do a lot of heavy lifting considering Howard and Watson dealt with a multitude of injuries.
That first season in the NFL taught him a great deal, and while Alexander showed flashes of being a starting offensive lineman in the league, he's determined to earn it permanently.
"Like guys have said in the past, success is a daily job, and rent is due every day," he said. "I need to earn this job every day in practice, every rep I take in practice, so I don't take it for granted, and I'm very appreciative."
As the saying goes, "iron sharpens iron," and fortunately for Alexander, he's able to go toe-to-toe on the gridiron with two of the best pass rushers in the league in defensive end Khalil Mack and linebacker Bruce Irvin on a regular basis, which has enhanced his game.
Learning from veterans with their talent and knowledge of the game, has helped the 23-year-old's transition into Year Two.
"I know if I can block them, I can block many guys in this league, and I love going against the best because I want to be the best," said Alexander. "So going against Khalil and Bruce is amazing, I pick their brains every day to see what they're thinking about as far as what I'm doing wrong, what they're thinking about, so I can improve."
For younger players, asking questions, and surrounding yourself with veteran minds is one of the keys to success in the NFL, and it seems like the New Orleans-native has figured that out rather quickly. Not only does he face stiff competition on a day-to-day basis, but he has members of arguably the best offensive line in football by his side.
Oakland Raiders players and coaches on the field for the seventh day of training camp.
In 2016, the Raiders boasted three Pro Bowl offensive lineman in left tackle Donald Penn, left guard Kelechi Osemele, and Center Rodney Hudson, and one could also make the case right guard Gabe Jackson deserved a selection as well. If Alexander truly wants to be one of the best, he's got all the tools around him to make it possible.
"I think it's very important for an offensive lineman to know the game of football, and know defenses," said Alexander. "Know the guy you're going against, things like that. I've kind of learned that being around greats that I have this first year, that's what they do, and that's what I wanted to improve on."
Alexander has made strides in his football IQ, as well as his production on the field, and it hasn't gone unnoticed during Training Camp 2017. The second-year offensive lineman has received praised from his peers, but also his Head Coach.
"Vadal's got a ton of snaps, doing a nice job with his reps," said Head Coach Jack Del Rio Sunday. "So he goes up against a guy that's pretty good in Khalil."
There's still a lot of time left before the 2017 regular season is here, but you better believe Alexander is going to utilize that time to earn his keep.