Like fellow linebacker London Fletcher before him, Lorenzo Alexander had to wait a long time for his just desserts in the National Football League.
A graduate of Cal and an undrafted nose tackle in 2005, Alexander cycled through eight different positions en route to linebacker, earning him the nickname "One Man Gang."
"I was just trying to scratch to make the team," Alexander said of his early years. "I always found a way to be useful and keep my spot. I've just kind of adapted and evolved over the years.
"It was a lot of hard work. A lot of that is great coaching and great players I've had a chance to play with. And now six years later, you find yourself in a leadership role."
Now in his third year as a captain of the Redskins' special teams, Alexander has been selected to his first Pro Bowl, following a monster season for the 29-year-old.
The Redskins' coaching staff has credited him with 29 special teams tackles this season, a new career high. His 19 NFL credited special teams tackles are tops in the league.
"You put a lot of hard work in being a dominant player," he explained. "To be recognized by the fans, the coaches and the players is a pretty cool experience. I thought I should've went the last couple years. It didn't happen for me, but it's a testament to keep grinding, keep working hard, keep trying to improve you game and eventually things will turn out great."
No one is as thrilled for Alexander's Pro Bowl selection as his special teams coordinator, Danny Smith.
"I'm so excited for him, for Lorenzo. I mean, there's no guy more deserving," Smith told the media on Thursday. "All people have to do is watch the film. When you look at him, he makes plays every week. He gets double- and triple-teamed at times. He has more big, solid hits than anybody."
Alexander continues to hit with the ferocity of a defensive tackle, even after losing 60 pounds over the course of his career.
Whatever he has lost on the scale, his coaches say he has gained in speed and football intelligence.
"He plays with a passion. You root for guys like that. You support people like that. They're easy to coach. They're fun to coach. They're fun to be around," Smith said. "They excite a football team and I think he has excited this football team with his play and the way it has carried on to other people in other phases.
"It's just great for this organization and for him as a person to achieve that goal of having that label which no one can ever take away: being the best at his position and being a Pro Bowler."
Head coach Mike Shanahan congratulated the other two Redskins' selections--Robert Griffin III and Trent Williams--but spent most of his time lauding the performance of his special teams captain.
"I was really happy to see that [selection]. He has been playing at that level for the three years that I've been with him," Shanahan said. "This year, he has taken his game to a different level. I was very happy that he was rewarded for that. It's nice to see players and coaches see that.
"To me, it's one of the biggest honors you can have."