COLUMBIA — Wide receiver Danario Alexander had something to give his younger brother, Ali, after Saturday’s game against Nebraska.
The sophomore dedicated the game to him. Before he took the field, Alexander wrote “4 My Bro” in black marker on the small cast protecting his left wrist, which he fractured in the Tigers’ Sept. 1 opener against Illinois.
The injury halted the receiver’s outstanding progress. Named the Tigers’ most improved wide receiver during spring practice, he had continued to excel during preseason camp and caught nine passes for 82 yards against the Illini before leaving the game.
But his fractured wrist was minor compared with his younger brother’s injury. Just like his older brother, Ali Alexander was poised to be a star wide receiver at Marlin (Texas) High School. But two weeks after his brother was hurt, Ali Alexander broke his ankle when he jumped for a pass and landed awkwardly. The senior’s season was over. When he broke the news to his older brother, Danario Alexander was stunned.
“It hurt me so bad. It was crazy,” he said. “I think I almost cried.”
The scene was much happier Saturday night. After sitting out a month, Danario Alexander was back on the field, and his family, sitting in the bright sea of gold, watched him make a play to secure Missouri’s blowout victory.
Quarterback Chase Daniel had just directed the offense past midfield halfway through the third quarter. When Danario Alexander broke from the line of scrimmage on the ensuing play, he had a feeling Daniel was going to throw to him. When he turned toward the quarterback on his crossing route, his instincts were confirmed. The ball was already coming his way.
“I had to get off the ground as quick as I could,” Danario Alexander said.
Blessed with a 46-inch vertical, he had no problem. He snatched the ball, raced to the end zone and scored a 48-yard touchdown.
Ali Alexander celebrated in the stands.
“I was jumping up and down on one leg,” he said.
By making his way to the locker room on crutches, Ali Alexander saw his older brother after the game. After his cast was removed, Danario Alexander gave it to his younger brother, who’s keeping it in his bedroom in Marlin.
Daniel was looking for Danario Alexander on that play. But when the Tigers were recruiting players in 2005, they didn’t know about him. Linebackers coach Dave Steckel went to Marlin to take a look at Jeremy Sanders, the Bulldogs’ star quarterback. But he couldn’t ignore one of Sanders’ wide receivers.
“There’s a real tall, good-looking athlete down there,” he told wide receivers coach Andy Hill when he came back. The coaches were impressed with his size, stride and receiving skills and offered him a scholarship.
“He’s as good as a receiver is there is in the Big 12 talent-wise. He’s a guy that got to us. We’re glad he’s here,” Hill said.
“Real tall” was a new way to describe the receiver, who didn’t start for Marlin until his senior year. He was known to his coaches and teammates as “Dust Mite.” Danario Alexander earned that nickname as a 105-pound cornerback on the freshman team. The late bloomer soon started to grow. Before his junior year, he reached 6 feet and dunked a basketball for the first time.
“I couldn’t stay off the rim after that, though — every time I got a chance,” he said.
Although the track and baseball star was 6 feet, 2 inches tall his senior year, his nickname stuck with him.
“He was so small, and then, heck, he just kept working and kept working,” Marlin coach Jerry Malone said. “We still called him ‘Dust Mite’ when he was a senior, but he wasn’t no little-bitty thing then.”
The trend runs in the family. Ali Alexander grew four inches during the summer and just passed six feet.
Based on his older brother’s history, he’ll probably get taller. Danario Alexander is now 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs twice as much (210 pounds) as he did in his days as a tiny cornerback. And like the Tigers, his confidence is brimming.
“As long as we click, we can beat the best that there is,” he said.
MU’S ALLOTTED TICKETS SOLD OUT FOR KU GAME: No more tickets are available from MU for the Nov. 24 MU-Kansas game in Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium, the athletic department announced Wednesday. A limited number of seats are available from Ticketmaster.