Sarah Stevens said it’s almost a daily occurrence.
Whenever she’s in her car with her son, Christian Alexander, and he spots a homeless person, he will lower his window or run out to give away “some extra cash.”
If Alexander is at a restaurant, Stevens said, it is not unusual for him to pay for someone else’s dinner.
Alexander, 20, a redshirt freshman who aspires to become FIU’s starting quarterback in 2017, is a devout Christian. Before he started attending Metro Life Church in Doral, there were no other Panthers athletes worshiping there.
But since he arrived in Miami from Lakeland in 2015, he has convinced about 20 of his FIU football teammates to join him at Metro Life, a nondenominational Christian ministry.
On a recent weeknight, instead of watching “Monday Night Football,” Alexander was at Metro Life. And he wasn’t alone. The parking lot was overflowing, and they were there for Metro Life, which opened this night’s proceedings with loud Christian music — it felt more like a rock concert than church.
With that appeal toward youth, Alexander has brought in 50 to 75 new members to the church, according to Metro Life’s New Generation Pastor, Chris Alessi.
“A lot of people are drawn to him,” Alessi said of Alexander. “He has brought more people to our church than just about anybody I’ve seen in my life.”
That type of leadership would seem to make Alexander a natural at quarterback. So far, though, his college career has been slow to develop.
He redshirted his first year and then spent FIU’s recently completed season as a third-string quarterback. The starter, Alex McGough, is expected to return next season for his senior year, further complicating things for Alexander.
But FIU wide receiver Mark Hutchinson, who is one of the athletes Alexander introduced to Metro Life, said he marvels at his teammate’s patience.
“Christian believes in God’s timing on the field,” Hutchinson said. “I believe that when Christian gets his chance, he’s going to soar like an eagle. An eagle never flies low. It flies high.”
Alexander could get his chance to soar soon.
Butch Davis, who earned a reputation as a master talent evaluator during his days at the University of Miami, was introduced as FIU’s new coach on Nov. 15.
You can bet that Davis will take special care to find a quarterback he believes in, whether that’s one of the QBs already on the roster or a passer he will bring in through recruiting.
“I really don’t know Coach Davis — he has a good résumé,” said Alexander, a 6-3, 220-pounder who will get his chance to impress his new coach in spring drills in March. “I can’t wait to see what he brings to the table.”
Stevens was a 17-year-old high school senior when she had Alexander.
She was a single mom four years later when she met Anthony Stevens on a blind date.
“That same night, she showed me a picture of Christian,” Anthony Stevens said. “He was wearing a little cowboy outfit.”
That little cowboy would soon become the center of Anthony Stevens’ universe. He married Sarah, and the couple has raised Christian together ever since.
But it took time for the father-son relationship to take hold.
“The first time I met him,” Anthony said, “he had a tight bond with his mom. He wasn’t too crazy about me for a couple of days.”
That would soon change.
Anthony Stevens said Alexander “drove me crazy” because of his appetite for so many sports — football, baseball, basketball, golf. Stevens worked with him on all of it, and it got to the point where Alexander, at age 5, would look into the stands for his stepfather’s approval after every play.
Seeing this, the coaches asked Stevens to join them on the football field, which he did, and the bond with Alexander grew.
When it came time for high school, Alexander was expected to play for the big public school in town, Lakeland High.
Alexander, though, didn’t like the “environment” at the school, according to Stevens, and enrolled instead at Lakeland Christian, which had zero football tradition at the time.
At Lakeland Christian, Alexander met former Florida Gators quarterback Wayne Peace, who was just a volunteer at the time but would go on to become the school’s coach.
Peace became another mentor to Alexander, guiding him through a stellar high school career.
A varsity starter since the eighth grade, Alexander was the 2014 Polk County Player of the Year and finished high school ranked fifth in Florida in career touchdown passes (110) and ninth in yards (8,299). Lakeland Christian went from a 2-8 record in his eighth-grade year to 11-2 as a senior, when it reached the Class 3A state semifinals.
Peace, an avid fisherman and hunter, has an influence on Alexander that stretches beyond football. Peace is the reason Alexander is now passionate about hunting and fishing, and the coach still counsels his former quarterback.
“I’ve told him, ‘Brother, your time is coming,’ ” Peace said. “He’s a great quarterback with a strong arm, and he’s a phenomenal young man. I said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing, and you will get noticed.’ ”
Alexander said his first college scholarship offer came from then-Hurricanes coach Al Golden. But Alexander passed — he had no interest in a program that already had a winning tradition.
“FIU wasn’t that well-known,” said Alexander, who also got offers from South Florida and Middle Tennessee. “I wanted to build a tradition.”
That won’t be easy to do at FIU, which has never won more than eight games in a season and has endured five consecutive losing years.
But Alexander has faith. He believes in his talent, and that showed in limited opportunities this past season.
Alexander completed 20 of 34 passes for 218 yards and four touchdowns. He had zero interceptions, and his QB Efficiency Rating (151.0) was the best on the team by far. He’s also a productive runner, scoring his first collegiate touchdown on a 20-yard scramble in FIU’s season finale at Old Dominion.
“I like to lower my shoulder,” Alexander said. “I like to get tough yards.”
Alexander carries a 3.0 grade-point average while studying business management. It’s possible Alexander could leave FIU with a master’s degree.
“If he can do that,” Peace said, “I’ve promised to buy him a new hunting rifle.”
But before hunting or football or even academics, faith comes first for Alexander. Hutchinson said Alexander can typically be found in his apartment going over Bible notes.
“It would be easy to lose yourself in the moment of being a Division I football player,” Hutchinson said. “It would be easy to give into temptations and the typical life of partying and drinking after games.
“But you have to realize what you’re here for. … God is the answer to sunrise and sunset.”