If Lorenzo Alexander did in fact play his final home game Sunday, the Buffalo Bills’ linebacker will take a memory to cherish forever with him.
Alexander’s 11-year-old daughter, Zoie, surprised her dad by singing the national anthem ahead of the regular-season finale against the New York Jets at New Era Field.
“It was one of the proudest moments as a father that I’ve had,” Alexander said after the Bills’ 13-6 loss. “It was really emotional. … I didn’t even know she was singing it, so it was a really cool experience.
"I thought she did a great job. Very confident, but if you know my daughter at all or have been around her, that’s right up her alley and something she loves to do. She’s 11, and to be able to sing in front of 50,000 people like that with confidence, it was cool. As a dad, I was like, ‘Don’t forget the words, don’t forget the words,’ but she did an excellent job today.”
Zoie Alexander surprised @onemangang97 and sang the national anthem before today’s game.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) December 29, 2019
Some of Alexander’s teammates were brought to tears during the moment – a sign of just how much respect the 13th-year veteran has in the locker room.
“That was huge. A lot of people were emotional about it,” defensive tackle Jordan Phillips said. “I don't know if it's his last game, but if it is, to go out the way he has, the way he wants to, that's what everybody wants. He's part of that 1% that's done it.
“He brings his family around all the time, so everybody knows Zoie. It was cool for everybody. I know it was cool for ‘Zo’ and his family, but we're such a family here, seeing something like that and the Bills allowing that to happens speaks magnitudes about this organization.”
Added safety Jordan Poyer: "I could imagine seeing his daughter out there singing the national anthem in front of thousands of people had to be a very special moment for him. It was a special moment to witness."
Alexander, 36, played one defensive series with the starters. Before the Bills’ second defensive series, coach Sean McDermott took a timeout to allow the crowd to applaud Alexander as he left the field.
— Bradley Gelber (@BradleyGelber) December 29, 2019
Included in that group of those cheering were Alexander’s parents, who surprised him at the game. Before Zoie performed the anthem, the family – including Alexander's wife, Manjanique; their two sons, Mason and Myles, and their other daughter, Vanessa – took pictures on the sideline. It all had the feel of a player preparing to soon say goodbye.
“Obviously it was a decision I made before the season,” Alexander said of 2019 likely being his last year in the NFL. “At this point we still have to play Houston next week. My mind hasn’t even processed transition yet. I’m still in this thing 100%. Once you start thinking about life after (football), you kind of take some of the focus away (from) the guys and what’s important. The focus is on Houston now and we have to get the playoff win. Obviously, that would be huge for this organization and community and that’s what we’re looking at right now.”
The longer he spoke, though, the more Alexander sounded like someone who knows that Sunday was his last home game as a member of the Bills.
“The longer you play, the longer you risk something happening, obviously brain damage or some significant type of knee injury, which I don’t want to rehab,” Alexander said. “I want to be able to dominate my sons as long as possible and play with them. All that kind of went into the decision.”