Motivational Coach

Timothy Alexander champions football's return
By Cary Estes • Photos by Steve Wood • Video by Jeff Myers, Adam Pope, Laura Thomas, and Carson Young
Photo of Timothy Alexander raising finger to the sky during football practice; headline: Motivational Coach
Timothy Alexander champions football's return
By Cary Estes • Photos by Steve Wood • Video by Jeff Myers, Adam Pope, Laura Thomas, and Carson Young
“I try to help walk these players through life.”
That’s how Timothy Alexander describes his role as director of character development for the UAB Blazers football team. But it’s an interesting choice of words, since he has not physically been able to walk for more than 10 years.
Alexander was paralyzed in an auto accident in 2006 while a student and football player at Birmingham’s Erwin High School. Though he has slowly improved over the years and can now stand on his own, Alexander must rely on a wheelchair.
But spend time with him, and you quickly realize that wheelchair is simply a vehicle. It does not define how the 28-year-old travels through life—or what he has to say. He gives UAB credit for helping him find his voice.
“I’m forever grateful for this university and the football program,” says Alexander, who earned a master’s degree in communication management from the College of Arts and Sciences in 2015. “I’ve grown a lot by being here and being around this football team. The team taught me how to be a man, and how to demand excellence in myself.”
Photo of Timothy Alexander working with players in uniform at Legion FieldTimothy Alexander is a constant presence at practices, offering encouragement and advice players can use on and off the field.

Team Player

Alexander’s association with Blazer football began in 2012, a year after he enrolled at UAB, when he convinced then-head coach Garrick McGee to make him an honorary player. For the next three years, including after Bill Clark became head coach in 2014, Alexander followed the same schedule as the other players, working out with them in the weight room and taking what he calls “mental reps” on the practice field. He even got a locker and a jersey.
So when it was announced near the end of 2014 that UAB football was shutting down, Alexander became one of the most visible cheerleaders for the program, helping to organize student rallies and visiting with local government officials and community leaders.
“Students may not have much money, but we all have different resources,” Alexander says. “I wanted to keep it active, keep it in the public eye. It was all about coming together as a family and taking care of UAB. At the end of the day, I didn’t want anybody to say we didn’t do our part. I kept telling people to not give up, that we’re going to make it through this.”
Sure enough, UAB football is back. Thanks in part to Alexander’s efforts, more than $43 million has been raised for the program over the past two years, enabling the construction of the Football Operations Center and Legacy Pavilion. There is also new enthusiasm throughout the community as coaches and players return to the field.
“One of my trainers told me, ‘If you believe something can happen, then “no” is not an option.’ That’s always stuck with me,” Alexander says. “So I never doubted. I knew if we did what we had to do, then football would be back.”

Strengthening Mind, Body, and Spirit

Today Alexander remains an integral part of UAB football, working in a variety of roles. He acts as a liaison between the team and the Birmingham community, helping to coordinate player visits to patients at Children’s of Alabama and activities with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. He maintains contacts with area business leaders to help players find jobs after graduation. And, of course, he talks with the team regularly, offering motivational speeches and life advice.
“He is a big part of our program,” Clark says. “He works out religiously, and the players see that and are inspired by it. He’s just a winner, and I’m glad he’s with us.”
Alexander says he goes to physical therapy nearly every day and works out at UAB’s football facility as often as three times a day. He increasingly has more feeling and movement in his legs, and is convinced he will soon walk again. He also plans to earn a Ph.D in psychology and eventually become what he likes to call “an inspirational doctor.” In addition, Alexander is engaged to be married, with the wedding planned for next year.
And, of course, Alexander plans to watch every play of every UAB football game this season. “I dreamed of playing football at UAB, and now people will be able to live out my dream for years,” Alexander says. “Even after I’m gone, people will still be living out my dream. That’s very humbling for me.”

Before the Blazers returned to play on September 2, Timothy Alexander returned to his feet, fulfilling a promise by walking from his wheelchair to deliver the game ball. Video of the inspirational moment instantly went viral. Now discover the years-long journey behind his famous walk.

Photo of Timothy Alexander working with players as they do their warmups

Published August 2017
Updated September 2017