Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bombers hit close to home

D-man ducks out of class at U of M, joins team

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Donovan Alexander (right) tackles Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Onrea Jones: the ex-Eskimo had seven interceptions in 51 games.

JASON FRANSON / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

Donovan Alexander (right) tackles Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Onrea Jones: the ex-Eskimo had seven interceptions in 51 games.

Chris Walby belonged to the club. So too did Scott Flagel and Markus Howell, to name just a few.

The question now is whether Donovan Alexander also has what it takes to join those well-known names in what is one of Winnipeg's most exclusive clubs -- Winnipeggers who have started for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The Bombers announced Tuesday they had signed Alexander, who grew up in Tuxedo, went to St. Paul's High School and is still such a loyal Winnipegger he was between classes at the University of Manitoba yesterday -- he's studying education -- when the Bombers asked him to walk across the street to Investors Group Field and introduce himself to the media as the club's newest signee.

"It feels surreal. It's still sinking in," said Alexander, 28. "Walking by and seeing all the 'W's' up there on the board -- it's amazing. It's hard for me to express right now.

"I'm just so happy, my family is so happy. My parents are actually on a cruise right now -- I don't think they know about it. They won't be back until the first week of March so I will show up in the airport wearing Winnipeg Blue Bombers gear and they'll be confused."

A seven-year CFL veteran who was originally drafted in the third round of the 2007 draft by the Montreal Alouettes, Alexander was released last week by the Edmonton Eskimos, where he started at safety the last three seasons, recording 121 defensive tackles and 7 interceptions in 51 regular season games.

His best season came in 2012, when he recorded 43 defensive tackles and 4 interceptions en route to being named a West Division all-star. Alexander had 37 tackles and 1 interception in 2013.

That Alexander was released by an Eskimos team that had the second-worst record in the CFL last season -- ahead of only Winnipeg -- would seem to raise at least some question marks about the current state of his play. But Alexander says his walking papers were all just part of the usual CFL churn and he had multiple offers to sign elsewhere in the last week before choosing Winnipeg.

"In the CFL, there is always turnover and it would have been my fourth defensive co-ordinator in four years in Edmonton if I'd stayed there," said Alexander. "There's lots of turnover and different perspectives. They wanted different people and they told me they were going in a different direction."

The Bombers brass believe they have a keeper in Alexander.

"Donovan is a veteran, Canadian player, who we feel can compete for a starting spot in our secondary," GM Kyle Walters said in a statement. "We are very pleased to add not only a talented football player, but also someone who grew up in Winnipeg and understands the importance of Blue Bomber football in our community. It was a great fit for both parties."

Alexander was also part of the Saskatchwan Roughriders teams that made Grey Cup appearances in 2009 and 2010 and his signing by Winnipeg means he will be reunited in 2014 with defensive co-ordinator Gary Etcheverry, who held that job in Saskatchewan when Alexander was there and was announced just last week as the Bombers new DC.

Alexander said his time with Etcheverry had a lasting impact on him. "A lot of my defensive philosophies are actually still based on his teachings," said Alexander.

Alexander played cornerback in Saskatchewan but was a safety in Edmonton. He said he had yet to discuss with the Bombers coaching staff the role coaches here see for him in the Bombers secondary.

"Today will be the first chance I get to talk to them," said Alexander, "so we'll find out...I'm comfortable in both positions and I think in the CFL you have to be comfortable in both positions if you want to have a long career."

Meanwhile, import running back Travon Jones (5-8, 171--McPherson College) has tweeted the Bombers have invited him to training camp. The Bombers are light on running backs right now, having not re-signed either Chad Simpson or Will Ford from last year's team.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 26, 2014 C4

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