Mackensie Alexander is the No. 2-rated cornerback in the entire country. He has been advertised as the type of program-changing, shut-down defensive back that can make an impact anywhere he goes, as soon as he steps onto the football field.
ESPN has rated him at a 91, making him one of the very few five-star recruits at any position in any part of the country. He has earned a named for himself for far more than his natural abilities in man-to-man coverage and his unparalleled instincts. The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder has a singular focus, an intense will to succeed rarely seen in a young man his age.
The way most programs saw it, not only would a coach be lucky enough to land Mackensie, but his eventual commitment would be twice as nice for that school.
Alexander has a twin brother, Mackenro, himself an elite recruit as a safety.
Mackenro is a little bigger than his superstar brother, measuring in at 6-foot and 190 pounds. He has been rated as the No. 43-safety in the nation and while not expected to compete for a starting role as a true freshman, is easily a Division I-caliber player in his own right and has the body type and speed to make plays as a special teams’ player right away.
On Wednesday, in a nationally televised press conference in the twins’ home town of Immokalee, both made Tigers fans extremely happy.
However, those fans are located in two different parts of the country.
After pulling a Mississippi State hat out from under his seat, Mackensie placed it on the table, pulled a Clemson hat out and slipped it onto his head. The superstar recruit was headed to Dabo Swinney’s Tigers. The program’s defense desperately needed a talent such as Alexander to help catch the defense up with the team’s elite offensive unit led by quarterback Tajh Boyd.
Seated directly to the right was Mackenro, not afforded the publicity, but at three-stars would have been welcomed to Clemson with open arms.
But he was already wearing an Auburn hat.
The two grew up throwing a football between each other. They grew up hitting each other until finally, when pee-wee got going, they were able to team up and lambaste little kids in opposite jerseys. The two led their high school team to state, hardly allowing a receiver to breathe, let alone catch passes. They ran together, lifted together, watched film together.
They went out together, laughed together, talked to girls together. Studied, ate, slept. Played video games.
But they will not be going to college together.
Both young men, in a world where every recruit posts everything he is thinking to Twitter and Facebook and every recruiting reporter is texting players at all hours of the day, were notably secretive about their selection processes.
Because it must have been terrible.
For the first time in their lives, these two superstar football players will look across the field and will not see their twin brother across from them, supporting them, urging them to succeed. Each will be stepping onto their new campus and strapping on their new uniforms hundreds of miles away from the other.
Both Mackensie and Mackenro Alexander have lived lives intertwined. Sometimes, however, people tend to forget that each twin is his own person.
Now, with their dual decisions, both young men will have the opportunity to prove their mettle not as a member of a unit, but as an individual. The choice comes with its own difficulties and pratfalls, of course, but the rewards may just be greater for it.
As a twin brother myself, if I can guarantee anything, it is that the Alexander parents are praying Clemson and Auburn never meet in a bowl game.