D.J. Alexander was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in 2015. He recorded 70 tackles, 12 for loss and four quarterback sacks during his senior year at Oregon State in 2014, but was still somewhat of an afterthought to NFL scouts.
Then, at his Pro Day, he ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash. Suddenly, his game film was a hot commodity.
Alexander was eventually selected after 171 other players, in the fifth round, by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2015 NFL Draft. He was the first player ever drafted into the NFL from Palm Desert High School, and the first from the Coachella Valley since Oscar Lua in 2007.
Now he’s the first to be elected to the Pro Bowl.
Alexander, a reserve linebacker who was previously chosen as an alternate, has been added to the Pro Bowl roster as a special-teams player and will head to Orlando, Fla., for the game this Sunday at the Citrus Bowl (ESPN, 5 p.m.). Alexander will replace New England’s Matt Slater, who will not play in the game as he prepares for the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
“He didn’t get much attention for the football player he was until they realized what an athlete he was,” said Larry McGivney, an agent who has represented Alexander. “Then they went back and looked at the film and realized he’s the total package.”
Alexander, 25, has been perhaps the biggest reason for Kansas City’s standout special teams unit, lining up on kickoff, kick return, punt and punt return packages. He led the team with nine special-teams tackles in 2016 and 11 in 2015, and he blocked a punt a year ago as a rookie, and forced a fumble this season.
He has also played some inside linebacker for the Chiefs.
Alexander is believed to be the only current NFL player with ties to the Coachella Valley. His close friend James Dockery, another Palm Desert grad, most recently played with the Carolina Panthers in 2014, and joined the Oakland Raiders for training camp in 2015.
The NFL has invited the high school head coaches of each player to this year’s Pro Bowl, so former Palm Desert head coach Pat Blackburn will be in attendance.
Watch the Pro Bowl
When: Sunday, Jan. 29, 5 p.m.