When Shaun Alexander was a youngster, he watched the great running backs.
“I would take pieces of their games,” he said. “I’d try to follow blocks like Emmitt Smith. I’d try to burst through a hole like Marcus Allen. I’d try to stay low and break tackles like Tony Dorsett.”
Now 28, Alexander has run past all of those Hall of Famers – and everyone else, for that matter – in the NFL record book. In the 2005 season, he set the league record by scoring 28 touchdowns. He also became the first NFL player to score 15 or more touchdowns in five consecutive seasons.
“Shaun had a phenomenal year,” said Seattle coach Mike Holmgren, who saw Alexander lead the Seahawks to a 13-3 regular season and their first-ever trip to the Super Bowl. “He delivered week after week. He’s as tough a guy as I’ve ever coached.”
Alexander led the league with 1,880 yards rushing and 168 points. He had eleven100-yard games and two four-touchdown games on his way to winning the Maxwell Club’s 47th annual Bert Bell Award as Professional Player of the Year.
“I think that is a team goal,” Alexander said. “The way I always looked at MVPs was it was a player who did really good things on a really, really good team.”
The Seahawks had an excellent offense with Pro Bowlers Matt Hasselbeck (quarterback), Mack Strong (fullback), Walter Jones (tackle) and Steve Hutchinson (guard), but it was the 5-11, 225-pound Alexander who made it go. In the NFC championship game, one week after suffering a concussion, Alexander carried the ball 34 times for 132 yards and two touchdowns as the Seahawks crushed Carolina, 34-14.
“Shaun ran like a man on a mission,” Strong said. “He comes out to compete, he wants to win every game. That’s why he’s the MVP. He put us on the map.”
Playing in Seattle, Alexander did not get much media exposure during the regular season. In the Seahawks only Monday night appearance, a 42-0 rout of the Eagles, Holmgren rested Alexander in the second half, so his one primetime showcase turned out to be his least productive game of the year. It was not until the championship win over Carolina that Alexander finally was granted the acclaim he deserved all along.
“He has the speed, he has the moves, he has all those things, but it may not be in the same light as LaDainian Tomlinson, who has that Barry Sanders flair,” Marcus Allen told Steve Serby of the New York Post. “In our world, unfortunately, it’s all about style and less substance. Well, Shaun has more substance than style.”
“I never thought I was completely overlooked, I was always just one of the other guys,” Alexander said. “When people talked about the MVP, I thought it was an honor just to be mentioned with guys like (Patriot quarterback) Tom Brady, Peyton (Manning, Colts quarterback) and Tiki (Barber, Giants running back). You watch these guys and you’re just excited about the stuff they do for football.”
“But overall, it’s really about the team and our team has done stuff that Seattle’s never seen before. That’s the exciting part.