The hunger hasn't subsided. For Dominique Alexander, it's only intensified.
The undrafted linebacker impressed during training camp last year and found a niche on special teams to land a spot on the 53-man roster. He maintained it from start to finish as a do-it-all guy for special teams coordinator Chris Tabor and is looking for even more entering his second season.
"I just want to be the best player I can be for any team I play for. That's been my mindset since I started playing football," Alexander said. "When I step on the field, I just don't want to be another body. I want to be somebody that's contributing to the team and making plays. That's what pushes me every single day. You really can't take any steps backward because if you're doing that, you'll get sent home.
"You've got to keep showing guys every day you're improving and becoming a better player. That's what motivates me."
That motivation was evident during a productive offseason program for Alexander, who came back to Berea with a lower body fat percentage thanks to a change in his diet and added strength as the months unfolded. Described by linebackers coach Blake Williams as a "little bowling bowl," the 6-foot, 235-pound Alexander received extensive, second-team repetitions at the MIKE linebacker spot behind veteran Tank Carder.
The recent trade of Demario Davis, a mentor of Alexander's, has opened the door for Alexander to make an impact beyond special teams.
"It's all up to the coaching staff and people upstairs," Alexander said. "All I can do is come back and keep making plays like I've been doing and come back in training camp in the best shape of my life and put myself in the position to get on the field on defense this year."
Take a look at the Cleveland Browns roster as of September 1, 2017.
Alexander has added 15 pounds of muscle since he left the University of Oklahoma and took his overall health and wellness to another level this offseason when he modified his diet. It was a painful decision, but Alexander said goodbye to buffalo wings and adopted a strict regimen that made an immediate impact on his on-field performance.
"It's been allowing me to move faster on defense," Alexander said. "I'm just really moving faster and I've gotten stronger as well. I'm playing a lot stronger and playing with a better base and am able to make more plays."
His new position coach has certainly noticed.
Williams liked the appetizer he received from Alexander during OTAs and minicamp but knows the real display of his improvement will unfold when the players don pads at training camp. Alexander has already shown he can bring the oomph even without making contact, Williams said.
"He just looks stout," Williams said. "Also on top of that, he's done a good job this offseason of being instinctual, playing plays. He either feels the play, what play is being ran and he jumps it and beats the offense to the spot. He gets there so fast that the guy runs into him and falls down but you never see him falling down. He's got a little bit of brick house, sawed off bowling bowl to him.
"I'm excited to see him get a chance to play in the preseason, get the pads on and then it's real."
Alexander knows his opportunity to land significant playing time on defense is real. He's carrying the hunger of a player just looking to land a spot on the 53-man roster but has goals that go well beyond.
"I set my goals pretty high," Alexander said. "I'm my biggest critic and I want to see myself play at a high level. I just got to work hard and put myself in the best position to reach my goals."