Shaun Alexander carries on after the NFL

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By Mike Beamish, Vancouver Sun

The transition from professional athlete to retiree happens too soon, leaving players figuring out what to do when the roar of the crowd fades and the bank account quickly recedes.

Few have reached peace with this most unnatural of retirements as has Shaun Alexander, the former Seattle Seahawks running back and NFL MVP (2005) who was in Vancouver last week to promote NFL Thursday Night football on behalf of NFL Canada.

Now 38, the prolific Alexander scored 87 rushing touchdowns in a five-year period for the Seahawks at the height of his fame. He has been just as abundant in his family life. Shaun and his wife, Valerie, have eight children, all of them home-schooled at their rural property in Great Falls, Va.

Alexander250_1106Alexander frequently revisits the Emerald City — he has been to two Seahawks home games already this season — and Tuscaloosa, Ala., where he played his college football with the Alabama Crimson Tide before the Seahawks drafted him in the first round (19th overall) in 2000.

He is in the process of setting up a foundation, in co-operation with the National Football League, to better prepare players for the rigours of regular life after their careers end. Alexander rattles off statistics showing that 78 per cent of NFL players go broke within two years of retirement, at an age when most men are still looking forward to their most productive years.

The former NFL single-season touchdown record-holder (28, in 2005) sparked the Seahawks to their first championship appearance (Super Bowl XL) 10 years ago. He chatted with The Sun during his stopover in Vancouver.

Q: Five girls and three boys. That’s a pretty full house. I guess the question is, is eight enough?

A: That’s my nine to five — my kids. We’ve been blessed by whatever God gives us. It’s exciting. We have a lot fun. Being a dad is the greatest job in the world, the sweetest job in the world. To be honest, it’s tough and overwhelming at times. We’re fortunate that both my wife and I come from big families, so we know what to expect.

Q: You were among the nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2015. Is getting a gold jacket and a bust in Canton important to you? Do you feel you had a Hall of Fame career, like your old left tackle, Walter Jones?

A: I don’t know how you get in. I can’t control that. My career wasn’t as long as some others. But I would just say, “98 touchdowns in five years” (112 altogether, including his time with the Washington Redskins). When I showed up, the greatest Seahawk was Steve Largent, 20 years before I got there. I created a swag for the city. I was very proud of what I did in Seattle. When I come back (to CenturyLink Field), I see all those banners (NFC West, NFC and Super Bowl champions) that shifted the whole feeling of the people of Seattle for their team. It’s beautiful. I played on a team that was not known for winning. When I left, it was known for winning.

Q: A recent Seattle Times headline read: “Time for Seahawks to accept that Marshawn Lynch may go from Beast Mode to Decreased Mode.” Lynch is 29, and they’re already talking about his career winding down. You were 30 when the Seahawks released you and out of football at 31. Why are careers for running backs so short-lived?

A: I believe it’s the number of carries. Your body just starts to wind down on its own. I broke my ankle at 29, my wrist at 30. When I went to the Redskins (for his final year), I was more a morale guy, a leader. I couldn’t do 30 carries a game. I could do five, maybe 10. I knew I was done when I was doing squats, I went down, and I couldn’t get up again. The ‘Skins wanted me back, but I knew I was finished.

Q: Seahawks running back Fred Jackson wrecked his Corvette last week while drag racing with someone after a practice outside the team’s practice facility in Renton. Did anyone ever try that when you practised up the road in Kirkland?

A: I think sometimes people do immature things and it catches up to them. I’m just glad nobody got hurt. I hope a lesson was learned. With social media today, you can’t get away with anything without everybody knowing about it.

Q: Lynch is not only one of the most watchable, powerful and valuable players in the league, but also the most elusive when it comes to interviews. How do you feel about Beast Mode’s coyness and silent treatment with the media?

A: I know him. We chat. He’s a great player and respectful of everybody. Saying something to be politically correct was not how he was raised. It’s better to speak less than say things that bother people and create controversy. I think that’s really wise.