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Lorenzo Alexander, from football to family

The former Buffalo Bills linebacker is more than a football team. He is all about paying it forward, and family comes first.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — There is no hesitation when you ask Lorenzo Alexander about his decision to leave the game that allowed him to earn a living and provide bountifully for his family.

"Fifteen years is something that surpassed any dream that I had," he said during a candid interview in his home.

Buffalo linebacker Lorenzo Alexander retired after the Bills' wild card playoff game against Houston.

He understands adversity.

"Being slapped by the reality of going undrafted," he said. "I've been cut a couple of times, and I think that is the hardest thing to adjust to in the NFL, that it is now a business.

"And even though you're talented, now you're in a world where everybody is talented, and so for me that was really the first time somebody told me I wasn't good enough to be on the field or earn a spot. It hits your ego in a certain way."

Alexander credits family for keeping him on the right track.

"I think with the foundation my uncle set for me is not really ever allow being told no to be an option," he said.

Alexander came to Buffalo in 2015.

"Until you've been to Buffalo, you really can't appreciate the city," he said. "I had no idea about Shea's and Toronto. By far, this is my favorite place, and if you ask any of my kids, they really loved it here."

During his last home game at New Era Field, his daughter, Zoie, surprised him when she sang the national anthem. She admitted "it was very, very scary" as her dad commended her for doing a good job.

Credit: WGRZ-TV

"She's probably the biggest proponent of trying to get me to play another year. She's really taken to this culture her friends" in Buffalo.

Credit: WGRZ-TV

Now that he's retired, Alexander is looking forward to spending more time with his wife and children.

His foundation ACES will play a big role in how he wants to help children and younger athletes.

ACES, which stands for Accountability Community Education and Sports, fills the gap for kids with the ability to play a sport, but they don't have the resources or support to make the dream happen.

"Whether that's providing backpacks or providing mentoring, SAT prep or just having somebody come in and speak to a young man that comes from the same area, just to give him a little a bit of wisdom about what it means to be a man," Alexander said.

He hopes the four pillars of ACES help young kids "get out of the hood, get out of their low income situations, and become successful. Go to college and come back, and give back, and try to create that positive cycle that we are lacking in our community."

Alexander grew up in Oakland, California.

"I could have easily ended up like some of my family members or cousins dealing drugs, in a gang or finding my way to prison, but because I had somebody like my uncle, Steve, really show me a great example of what a man looks like and really push me in the right direction," Alexander said.

A mission to serve people is what Alexander is all about now.

"I take a particular interest in other young men because I feel if we have better leadership in that area, we make our communities better, our families better, our lives better, our world better," he said.

Credit: Lorenzo Alexander

He hopes to use his talents in broadcasting and helping NFL players.

"Working with guys coming out of college, or even guys that have been around the league for a little bit, trying to figure things out, I understand that the reason I am in that position is because somebody did it for me, and so right now I am just trying to pay it forward," he said.

Leadership matters.

"A leader is secure in who they are. They shouldn't have any problem replacing me (in the locker room) if they do, then I didn't do my job properly," Alexander said.

"I leave the game with no regrets because I left it out there every single time," he added with a smile. "I have no regrets, and that's the reason I am at peace because I am choosing my family and not choosing football."

Lorenzo and his family now live in Arizona. He admits he's looking forward to the warmer weather. He plans to remain involved with the Bills by helping younger players.

He is a nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year. The winner will be announced on Saturday.

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