"Chasing a Dream" is a recurring series on ClevelandBrowns.com that profiles the rookies and other overlooked players on the roster who have beaten the odds in the past and look to do the same in the NFL.*
Dominique Alexander was thrown into the fire almost as soon as he got settled into his dorm room at Oklahoma. The linebacker left Norman as a two-time All-Big 12 selection, a three-year starter and one of the most productive Sooners in recent memory.
Now, Alexander — who joined the Browns as an undrafted free agent this past spring after a collegiate career that saw him total 290 tackles, four sacks, three forced fumbles, three pass breakups and an interception — finds himself trying to recreate that success in Cleveland.
"I feel like the transition has been kind of easy because OU does prepare you, they run everything like a business," Alexander said earlier this month. "Like Coach Jackson always talks about being a pro and doing things right and that's what they preach at OU. It's just you doing the right things and you come out on the field and ball and success is going to come your way."
And trust the 21-year-old from Tulsa has already made an impression in Berea thanks to his work ethic on and off the field.
"We are very pleased to have him. We like his athletic ability. He's a smart kid and an instinctive player who can make plays," inside linebackers coach Johnny Holland said. "We are very impressed with our inside linebacker group. There is a lot of competition there."
Indeed, Alexander is one of several newcomers competing for a roster spot in a room that includes veterans like Demario Davis and Christian Kirksey and fellow newcomers such as Scooby Wright III, who was taken by the Browns in the seventh round.
Much like Wright — who was arguably the nation's best defender in 2014 — Alexander has earned praise for his on-field production at Oklahoma and high-character marks off the field (qualities that were sought out by the Browns' leadership group during the draft process).
The latter of those two dynamics played a role in Alexander's decision to leave the Sooners following his junior season, he told the *Tulsa World i*n a February interview.
"I looked at an opportunity to put myself in a position to take care of my family and pursue my football dream," Alexander told the newspaper, pointing to his girlfriend and their 1-year-old son. "I prayed about it and thought about it and did counseling, and this is an opportunity that I decided to take advantage of."
He added: "I'm a real family-oriented man and (my girlfriend) means the world to me. "I've been with her since high school. It's way deeper than us having a son together."
The Browns took to the field to finish the three-day veterans' minicamp.
Alexander was invited to the NFL's annual scouting combine in February and came to terms with the Browns in May following the draft. By his own admission, he said he's still adjusting to the speed of the NFL game.
"You know sometimes, I really think the quarterback throws (are the biggest difference). The quarterback throws are crazy," he said. "Like with RGIII, if you're a step behind, you're gonna miss and he's going to complete the pass. So you've got to do everything right to be successful in this league."
To do so, he's leaning on the support of the coaching staff — be it Jackson, Holland or defensive coordinator Ray Horton — as the Browns prepare to reconvene for training camp in late July.
"I love coach Holland, he's a great coach. Just to learn from him, I'm just going to keep learning from him so I can be the best linebacker I can be. And with coach Horton, he's a guy who expects a lot out of you because you're either going to get it done or you're not. And I can respect that because, as a man, we're here to do a job," Alexander said.
"We're here to know our roles and where we're supposed to be on the field and that's all he wants from you. And then when it's time for you to make a play, he wants you to make a play. That's easy to play for as a defender. He wants you to do your job and that's easy. It's fun playing for this coaching staff."
In the meantime, Alexander — who said he'll head back to his home state to work out before training camp — plans on hitting the weight room and burying his head in the playbook.
"(I want to) come out here for training camp knowing everywhere I need to be," he said, "and then just fly around and have fun."