The driveway at the light brick house on East Latimer Place in Tulsa is fairly standard.
Concrete. Flat. About 15 yards long.
But it became a training ground for the Alexander brothers.
Under their dad's supervision, they ran suicides, using breaks in the concrete as their turning points. They jumped rope, a hundred jumps at a time. They hopped back and forth over a flower pot, 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off.
They were in elementary school, but Derrick Alexander Sr. put his sons through the workout a couple times a week.
“So we picked up on working hard,” big brother, Derrick Jr., said.
During a week that little brother, Dominique, will make his first college start at linebacker for Oklahoma — it will come in the Cotton Bowl against Texas — the Sooner Nation wants to know how he will fare. Will the true freshman be able to handle the pressure? Will he be able to replace the injured Corey Nelson?
Is Alexander ready?
He's been working toward this moment all his life.
Dominique Alexander started as a basketball player.
That's the way his dad wanted it. Even though Derrick Sr. played football at Oklahoma State — he was the Tulsa World's metro Defensive Player of the Year in 1985 as a senior at Tulsa Washington High — he didn't want his boys playing tackle football until at least sixth grade. So, he encouraged them to play basketball, even coached their teams.
Dominique got so good that he thought his sports future was basketball. But the interest from college recruiters told a different story.
Big-time football programs were way more interested than big-time basketball programs.
His sophomore year at Booker T, Dominique decided to get serious about football. He knew what he needed to do.
Work. Work. Work.
Then work some more.
He would practice, condition and lift with the team, then he would go with his dad, a 20-year veteran of the Tulsa Police Department, and lift some more.
Dominique had great examples all around him. He came through Booker T on the heels of several Division-I football players, including Calvin Barnett (OSU), Tyler Lockett (Kansas State) and his brother. Derrick Jr. was the Tulsa World All-State Player of the Year in 2010 and signed with Tulsa.
“Through him,” Dominique said, “I was able to see where hard work can get you.”
He remembers watching his brother doing pushups every night before he went to bed.
Now a redshirt sophomore, Derrick Jr. is a starting defensive end for the Golden Hurricane.
“My dad's a hard worker in everything he does. My brother's a hard worker in everything he does,” Dominique said. “That was able to make them successful.
“It's put me in the position I'm in right now.”
Dominique Alexander knows he will be stepping into a tough situation Saturday.
Does he feel like he's in the crosshairs?
“Not really under the gun,” he said, “but like, ‘I can't mess up. I have to be on my stuff. I have to really know my stuff.'”
That's why he didn't balk when Corey Nelson told him to meet in the film room for extra study every morning this week at 7 a.m.
Early mornings. Long hours. Extra work. None of that is new to Dominique Alexander.
“I think he can handle it,” his dad said of his son getting his first start in the Red River Rivalry. “That's something we've always instilled in both of (my sons) — When your time is called, you have to be ready — so we feel that he is ready.”
Mike Stoops said: “He's very well prepared for this. He's going to be an unbelievable player. Hopefully, it's Saturday.”
The Sooner defensive coordinator raised an eyebrow that seemed to say that you doubt this kid at your own peril.
“He'll be well prepared, and he'll hold his own, I can guarantee you that.”
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.