CINCINNATI – In the week leading up to his homecoming game, Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander joked about the excitement he felt about playing in front of 60,000 of his closest friends.
There weren’t quite 60,000 people there, nor were they all rooting for Alexander. But it sure seemed that way.
The official attendance was 52,131, at least 500 of whom were wearing a No. 37 Seahawks jersey along with thousands of others who came just to see him play.
When Alexander, a longtime Cincinnati Bengals fan, first came onto the field for pre-game warm-ups, a group of about 100 people gathered around the tunnel and cheered.
When he was introduced with the Seahawks’ offense, he received an ovation louder than those given to most of the hometown Bengals.
And when he busted out for 70 rushing yards and a touchdown reception in the first half, groups of fans dressed in blue waved their hands from all parts of Paul Brown Stadium.
“It was real exciting,” said Alexander, who grew up about 15 miles away in Florence, Ky. “I said to myself, ‘OK, if I score a touchdown in the fourth quarter, I’ve got to do the Ickey Shuffle.’”
Unfortunately for Alexander, he did not score a fourth-quarter touchdown, which may well have protected the sanctity of former Cincinnati running back Ickey Woods’ infamous dance. Alexander didn’t do much of anything in the second half, finishing with just 86 total rushing yards for the game.
Even worse, his Seahawks fell 27-24 in Alexander’s first return to the area as an NFL player.
“This town likes to see its people succeed,” said Alexander, who had a game-high seven receptions for 52 yards. “So there’s no doubt in my mind people were like, ‘I want to see Shaun do really, really well. And lose.’ They got it.”
Among those in attendance were Alexander’s mother, father and brother, who all sat in a section behind the north end zone as part of a group put together by the Shaun Alexander Foundation. Almost 500 fans paid the foundation $75 for a ticket to the game, a tailgate party, a bobblehead doll and a T-Shirt that read: “Shaun Alexander’s homecoming game.”
On the opposite end of the stadium, another group of Alexander fans gathered from all over the area and as far away as Alabama, where he went to college.
“It’s great to play here,” Alexander said. “I wish we could do it again – for two reasons.”
Of course, one of those would be to return to Seattle with a win.
“I wish we could have pulled (out) a victory, but I probably made them all happy because I played well and we lost,” he said. “So I’ve got to go beat them all up, whoever prayed that, because their prayers were answered.”