Transcript for SUPER BOWL XLVII - Shaun Alexander


Steve Paulson: That ‘s Shaun Alexander during his magic year. He was MVP and led his team to the Super Bowl. And it turns out he wasn ‘t just a great football player. He loves the game of chess. We ‘re digging into our archives this hour. I interviewed Shaun the year he won his MVP award.




Shaun Alexander: I think the biggest thing was the feel of it. Like, I started to think down the road and I noticed, like, well, wait a minute, and I started making everything almost like the chess board, like how I play the football game. Like, if I take two steps this way, I can get this guy to move here and the linebacker to move here. I can come back here, and it ‘s going to work, you know. With family ok, if I make this decision with my wife, then the kids will act like this, and they ‘ll be like this, and this will be success. I like the chess for the good thinking patterns for life.




Paulson: So there really are some similarities, I guess, between chess and football. I mean, it really is about conquering the opposition, and it has to do there ‘s a lot of strategy involved in moving around all the different pieces on the playing field.




Alexander: Totally. Like, when people get with me and they ‘re like, Gosh, you look like you just set up every running play that you have on the football field, and I ‘m, like, yeah. You know, they are 100 percent correct. Everything I do is to set up something for later on in the game.




Paulson: Do you think chess actually helps you as a running back in the NFL?




Alexander: I think so. I think it just help me in my way of thinking because, you know, I was only fourteen years old when I first started understanding the strategy of the game, so it started making me understand there ‘s a thought process. There ‘s a reaction to every action. There are things that you can do to move other things to what you want to accomplish. So, you know, for life, for football, definitely you know talent, of course, helps, but it definitely went well for me, you know, playing chess you know, at that age, for those couple years.




Paulson: Now I understand that the Kansas City Chiefs running back Priest Holmes, whose touchdown record you broke last year, is also a chess player. Have you ever played him?




Alexander: No, I ‘ve haven ‘t played against any of the running backs, except the Seahawks. You know, it ‘s really funny because in the running back world, there are a handful of us that play chess.




Paulson: And a lot of great players. I mean, I ‘ve heard Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, and Curtis Martin all play chess.




Alexander: Yep, Jim, Curtis, Barry, Priest, me. Yeah, it is wild, but there is something in it. And it is funny because we ‘re the running backs. You know, there ‘s a thought process that goes into our game. It ‘s like Muhammed Ali for boxing. He used to always say he loved playing against those guys. They would just come in throwing punches all wild, so after a while physically they wouldn ‘t be able to hold up. You know, so he was like the smart boxer. Well, if you look at the best football players, we play the game, and we ‘re physically gifted, but there ‘s something mentally that we have this advantage over just about most defenses that we play against. It ‘s because we ‘ve thought out the process, and no matter how strong or how fast you are, if you move here, we can move here, and we ‘ll win.




Paulson: That ‘s Shaun Alexander, the NFL ‘s Most Valuable Player in 2005. He ‘s now retired, but he still plays chess, and through the nonprofit group America ‘s Foundation for Chess, Alexander sponsors in-school chess programs for inner-city elementary schools. Now speaking of kids, we have another piece from our archives. Here are some students from Mrs. Minsberg ‘s fourth grade class at Randall Elementary School just down the street from us in Madison. They ‘re reading the poem, The King: I am the king of chess, the most important piece of all. I have a cross atop my crown that makes me extra tall. Being the king is fun, and being the king is grand because all the other pieces are in my command. We ‘ll send our knight out galloping or a rook upon an aisle or a bishop down a diagonal to stay for a little while. So I move the pieces all around, and I really think it ‘s fair because I am a grand old king, but I only move one square.

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