Reviewed by Marshall Hughes
by Shaun Alexander with Cecil Murphey
"A fast read through the life of Shaun Alexander."
Touchdown Alexander is a fast read through the life of NFL star Shaun Alexander, from his birth in Florence, Kentucky through his high school, college and pro days. Along the way he shares how his faith in God helped him in each part of his life.
Alexander talks about how he first got interested in football, being a star even before he hit college, meeting his wife, the birth of their daughters (Heaven and Trinity), his starting of the Shaun Alexander Foundation to help youth, the people who helped him through life, and some of his Christian ideology. The last chapter is 10 principles he would "recommend for living a blessed life."
Some of Alexander's stories are simple but amusing. Because of his football prowess, Alexander received stacks of scholarship offers from colleges. One way he narrowed down his options was to fling the letters from the recruiters over his shoulder. The college was out if it landed in the garbage can he had set behind him. A letter from a USC recruiter was one of the letters that passed this first test, but his mother quashed the Trojans with her "No California school!" And that, Alexander says, was that.
Those looking for a challenging read could be disappointed, but those looking simply for a biography on an American sports hero who is outspoken about his faith will be pleased with this book. Unfortunately, there are several factual gaffs. For example, a record is confused with a milestone, and the book has Heisman Trophy running back Ron Dayne playing for Virginia instead of Wisconsin.
As you read through Touchdown Alexander you might feel that Alexander's is a simple, almost child-like faith. That’s why this book might be most appreciated by those who know little about the Christian life. And Alexander assumes his readers know very little about football. He explains some things about the sport in a basic, early-elementary-school kind of way. He also goes light on statistics but does find time to put in some of the more impressive numbers. In one high school game his junior year he rushed for 350 yards and seven touchdowns. He ran for 110 TDs and almost 6700 yards in high school in less than two seasons as a starter. He throws in stats from his University of Alabama and Seattle Seahawk days, too, though not so many as to overwhelm the football neophytes who might be reading.
Alexander is humble through much of the book, leaving out or downplaying things that most people would brag about (i.e. graduating from Alabama in three and a half years), although in a few spots his ego peeks through. He seems to be quite offended by being tagged as Seattle's franchise player, thereby setting his salary at the average of the top five-paid players at his position. He felt he deserved more, and in fact signed the largest-ever running back contract one year later. Also, his account of his famous outburst directed at Seattle coach Mike Holmgren is quite possibly an attempt at revisionist history. To his credit, he never whines about bad breaks, even saying "We felt the referees made some bad calls, but they did their best" when talking about the 2006 Super Bowl loss. That is undoubtedly some of the most impressive restraint you'll ever hear.
From his small-town Kentucky roots to his 2005 NFL MVP honors, Shaun Alexander has, in his own words, "been blessed." Touchdown Alexander is the story of his life, from his youth in Kentucky to the end of the 2005 NFL season with his team playing in the Super Bowl.
Towards the end of the book Alexander writes, "Joy is one of God's greatest gifts to his children. Circumstances don't change a person's joy."
Perhaps that is what we can take away from this book.
Marshall Hughes is a former sports writer for the Honolulu Advertiser. For most of the past 22 years he has taught English in Japan. He has taught at the university level in America, Japan and China. Among his hobbies are sports, traveling and photography. He has been to 41 countries and is always hoping to go somewhere new. He is an award-winning photographer in both Japan and America. His bi-lines include The Washington Post, The Pacific Daily News (Guam), The Contra Costa Times and several sports publications.