Wednesday's Niners Daily offers suggested reading for the San Francisco 49ers Faithful.*
Kermit Alexander's story is a must-read.
The former 49ers cornerback has co-authored a new book, "The Valley of the Shadow of Death: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption." The book, written by Alexander, and San Francisco State criminal justice professors Alex Gerould and Jeff Snipes, is currently available on Amazon with a special reduced pre-release price of $14.30. The book will be released officially on Sept. 22.
Alexander was a first-round draft pick of the 49ers with the eighth overall selection in the 1963 NFL Draft. He played seven seasons with the franchise before moving on to play for the Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles. Alexander was also a president of the NFL Players Association.
](http://www.amazon.com/The-Valley-Shadow-Death-Redemption/dp/1476765766)Alexander's unique tale is also the subject of an upcoming episode of 49ers Studios' popular show, "The Faithful."
On the morning of August 31, 1984, three armed men broke into a house in the South Central section of Los Angeles, brutally murdering Alexander's mother, Ebora Alexander; his sister, Dietra Alexander; and his nephews Damani Garner and Damon Bonner. Now, over thirty years after the tragedy, the book chronicles the many ways it affected his life–and the unlikely source of redemption that followed.
One of eleven children, Alexander grew up in the Watts area of Los Angeles, and went on to became a UCLA football star. At the time of the tragic murders, Alexander was 44, retired and had just been hired as the color commentator for UCLA football.
In "The Valley of the Shadow of Death," Alexander paints a loving and unforgettable portrait of his family, particularly his mother Ebora, a beloved member of the community who, even as crime was increasing, ignored her children's pleas to leave the neighborhood. Using personal and family recollections, interviews with law enforcement and prison personnel, newspaper coverage of the case, legal documents, and historical records, Alexander describes in raw detail what happened on that day and the hours leading up to it.
Ominous and intense, powerful and uplifting, tragic and triumphant, "The Valley of the Shadow of Death," is testament both to the value of family and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming loss.
Here's an excerpt from the book regarding football and character from Alexander:
Football was my savior. The game is colorful and fast, complex and creative, electric.
For me, having grown up in South Central, I wanted to give the kids a meaningful way to spend their time, an opportunity to make positive attachments, and a chance to be a star on the field, not the streets. Mayor Bradley and I were convinced that sports provided a way to channel both rage and talent, that sports stressed discipline and focus, that playing the games was satisfying and built a sense of pride and self-worth.
*I speak on the benefits of sports, of my efforts with the NFL Players Association to make the game of football safer and more fair for the players. I talk of the need to get into the depths of our cities and continue to fight for their future, to make sure they do not slip back into their dark ages. I urge kids to stay in school, grow their minds and stay out of gangs. I tell of my ordeal and pray we prevent the next gang-bangers, get them young, really young, before they have a chance to become killers, before we as society pay the price. *
*But as I learned, one can't just talk, one must act. Each moment is a powerful, elusive, unpredictable opportunity. And as in football, you have to have a plan, be prepared ahead of time, see it coming, and then seize it. In a moment you can change or ruin lives, lead and inspire, or fire fatal shots.
- *If you need more reasons to pick up the book, here are some of the notable reviews:
"A compelling narrative that rivals a first-rate thriller . . . . Relevant, concise histories of L.A. gang warfare and capital punishment add context." (Publishers Weekly)
"Kermit Alexander has turned unspeakable tragedy into the most speakable memoir possible. His message is a must read. To lose a family is to lose yourself. But to re-discover yourself over the course of decades takes guts, love, sacrifice and trust. Kermit, one of the most honorable men I've ever known, has given us the blueprint of how to overcome." (Tom Friend, ESPN Senior Writer)
"An incredible saga of a former NFL star's journey from unspeakable family tragedy to a family and life renewed. Kermit Alexander's character and values ultimately make this a very inspirational story." (NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell)
"We all have moments in our lives where we need to overcome great adversity and reading Kermit's story shows the depth and courage he explored and conquered. Dealing with this much adversity and climbing so high is to see the glory and capacity of the kind of man Kermit is. I thank God for putting Kermit in my life and Kermit I thank you for sharing your inspiring journey. This is a must read!" (Ronnie Lott, Pro Football Hall of Fame Defensive Back of the San Francisco 49ers