COSTA MESA — There were several messages delivered, and messages within messages, and symbolism wrapped in tragedy and triumph when Kermit Alexander spoke to the Costa Mesa High football team Wednesday afternoon.
But before he talked about his life and challenged the young players, he gave some advice intended for the day and the future.
"A lot of times," he said, "if you keep your mouth shut, you'll learn a lot more."
And with that, the CMHS varsity football team listened, as Alexander, the former NFL football player, talked about his life and provided direction.
Even before he spoke, he made an impact, as an ESPN report of his story was shown. That story will become a book, due to be published sometime next year, Alexander said.
And, then there are plans for a movie. Morgan Freeman is set to produce it, Alexander said.
"Oh, it's very exciting," he said.
Some would think the process of unveiling his life would be painful for Alexander, but he has healed through his family and through delivering messages and motivating people as he did Wednesday.
Alexander, a former All-American at UCLA who played 11 years in the NFL as a defensive back with the 49ers, Rams and Eagles, saw his world fall apart when his mother, sister and two nephews were murdered.
The cruel fate was revealed on the screen. The killer, Tiequon Cox, had been introduced earlier in the video, a troublesome boy who had played for a Pop Warner football team opposite of the one Alexander had started in Watts.
Alexander said he could have made a difference in Cox's life, but didn't and instead blamed the murders on himself.
Cox and two others were hired to kill a family, but were given the wrong address, ESPN reported.
"Not a day goes by that I feel that I should have done something," Alexander says in the video. "And to my regret, my family had to pay for my mistake."
Alexander didn't find healing until after meeting his wife, Tami, and more solace when they adopted five Haitian children, three boys and two girls.
The ESPN report showed how the family finally came together, after the death scare from the Haiti earthquake, Jan. 12, 2010.
They now live as a family in Riverside.
Alexander says he now enjoys speaking to people and motivating others.
"It's really my assignment to get people to understand how important they are," he said. "To get them to a position where it's every day they know that their life has meaning.
"The kids need to know we need them as a community. And the only way that they can be helpful is for them to get their education, to work and to learn how to be a good citizen. And to demand that from other people. It's fun. That's my job to touch as many people as I can."
He made an impact on the Costa Mesa football team. After Alexander spoke, some of the Costa Mesa teens playfully practiced the triple jump in the school library because Alexander had talked about his track and field competition days.