ST. LOUIS – Four months after the draft when he was injured and ignored, former Missouri star Danario Alexander finally signed with an NFL team.
Now, he's got a new challenge: learning the playbook.
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Alexander has the size the St. Louis Rams lack at wide receiver to go with sure hands and speed that outran Big 12 defenses in a dazzling senior season. But judging from his first practice on Monday, it might be a while before he's ready for game day.
Wide receivers coach Nolan Cromwell was hands-on making corrections, and Alexander vowed to work long hours learning.
"I'll be here early and late trying to get everything together," Alexander said. "I'll be in my playbook as soon as I get back home. I'm playing the catch-up game now."
Alexander was a second-team All-American his senior season with 113 receptions for 1,781 yards and 14 touchdowns, emerging after three surgeries on his left knee. He required a fourth surgery after getting hurt in practice before the Senior Bowl in January and was on crutches at the NFL Combine, leading to a lonely draft experience.
"It was frustrating at the beginning, watching the draft and seeing all my friends get drafted. But I had to get my mind set. I had to get down to the issue and rehab every day to get to this point where I'm at right now."
The Rams have a glaring need for wide receivers and gave Alexander a tryout in early August, but thought the knee needed more time.
"They wanted me to go get a little bit more rehab and be more game ready, practice ready," Alexander said. "So that's what I did and they made the call."
After three weeks of rehab and getting into football condition, the Rams signed him.
"We always had him on the radar," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "It was just a matter of him getting healthy, and the right fit.
"We just decided to do it, see what we could find out about him in the next couple of weeks and then make a decision from there."
Landing with the Rams, whose training facility is about 100 miles east of Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo., where Alexander excelled as a senior, was a plus.
"The fans, the state, they all embrace me," Alexander said. "They were all pulling for me to sign with the Rams and I'm pretty excited about it."
Alexander said he got a congratulatory text message from Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and was planning on speaking with the coach later in the day.
Alexander wore a brace on his left knee at practice, but said the knee felt "pretty good."
"The doctor said his knee looked pretty good and he feels good," Spagnuolo said. "So the only way to really tell is to get him out there."