Getty Images Lorenzo Alexander

At 33 years of age, the NFL's co-leader in sacks -- Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander -- already has more sacks this year than in the rest of his other nine NFL seasons combined.

Fellow Bills linebacker Brandon Spikes has compared him to Benjamin Button, and Alexander's 10 sacks in 2016 have led to a surge in interview requests for the one-time anonymous veteran.

"Everybody wants to know," Alexander said, laughing, "what's so special about this year."

The short answer is that Alexander's recent success is a mix of opportunity, health, a mid-career position change and scheme. But the longer narrative is quite a Cinderella story.

The Patriots and Redskins showed mild interest in the free agent this past offseason, but the Bills were the only team to make a strong push.

Lorenzo Alexander

During his recruiting trip, Bills head coach Rex Ryan pulled him aside, telling him how he sought him when he was coaching the Jets in 2013 before Alexander signed with the Cardinals instead. He emphasized how his blitz-heavy 3-4 defense would suit him.

"I want you," Ryan said. "I know what I can do with you."

The sales pitch worked.

"When a coach says that to you, it definitely gives you a little more confidence that you're having a good situation," Alexander said. "Whether I'm going to be the starter or not, you always want to feel wanted."

Even the Bills, though, only wanted Alexander as a backup outside linebacker and special teams stalwart, as he made his lone Pro Bowl as a special teamer for the 2012 Cardinals.

But the Bills' first-round draft choice in 2016, outside linebacker Shaq Lawson, needed shoulder surgery. And Alexander outperformed Manny Lawson, another former first rounder, in training camp.

"I was brought here to be a special teams and a rotational player," Alexander said. "I stepped up."

Ryan's scheme turned out to be a perfect fit for the versatile Alexander. He has lined up as an outside linebacker, inside linebacker and defensive tackle; blitzed and even covered tight ends.

Lorenzo Alexander

"He allows me to move around," Alexander said, "do multiple things."

During a 30-19 win against the Rams in Week 5, he had three sacks. Similar to how the Giants loaded their defensive line with pass-rushing defensive ends as part of their NASCAR front in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI, the Bills used a speed package with Alexander at defensive tackle.

On the second sack -- a third-down play in the third quarter -- Alexander blitzed between the guard and center. On a first and goal in the fourth quarter, he shed tight end Tyler Higbee to drop running back Todd Gurley for a five-yard loss.

While helping send the Patriots to one of their two losses on the year, he leveled Jacoby Brissett, leaving the rookie quarterback dazed. During that 16-0 Bills victory, Alexander had six tackles, including a sack.

"He's been great," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "One of the best players we've seen all year, I'd put him up against anybody in terms of what he's done this year."

Without prompting, Alexander mentioned how much Belichick's effusive praise during that press conference meant to him.

At the same time, though, he said this season has not validated him nor does he carry a chip on his shoulder.

"I've proven myself in the league," he said. "Maybe not as a defensive outside linebacker coming off the edge, but I think guys respected what I brought to the table as a player. It's not really a chip like, ooh, look at what you guys missed out on."

Lorenzo Alexander

But Alexander seems to have been overlooked and out of position for much of his career.

As a 300-pound defensive tackle, he went undrafted in 2005 out of Cal, where he was a teammate of Aaron Rodgers.

The Panthers signed him as a free agent and then released him the next year. He played on the Ravens' practice squad for just five days before joining the Redskins, who activated him in 2007.

Head coach Joe Gibbs liked his versatility and played him at guard, tight end, defensive tackle and on special teams, leading to his nickname of "One Man Gang."

From 2008 to 2009, he began shedding weight, gradually dropping more than 50 pounds to his current weight of 245, another reason for his late-career resurrection.

"That has a lot to do with it," he said. "I'm quicker, I'm faster, I have better endurance, but at the same time, I maintained my strength."

Alexander lost the pounds over the course of four to five years through MMA training, cross-training, cycling and abstaining from alcohol and cutting carbs.

The most difficult part was sacrificing favorite foods like pancakes, French toast, burgers and mac and cheese.

Lorenzo Alexander

"All of that type of stuff as a lineman that you could kind of gorge yourself with," Alexander said, "it's kind of hard to let go."

In 2010 the Redskins hired head coach Mike Shanahan, who shifted Alexander to outside linebacker, where he started 12 games. But just as he was getting the hang of his new position, Washington drafted Ryan Kerrigan, meaning he was stuck behind stud outside linebackers Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo.

In 2013 he signed with the Cardinals. After starting three games, he suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury to his foot that hindered his play so badly that he considered retirement.

He came back the next season, but the Cardinals released him after training camp in 2015, and the Raiders, his hometown team, signed him for one year. A special teamer for Oakland, he played in all 16 games.

Even with his success rushing the passer for the Bills, he still plays on the kickoff, punt and punt return teams for Buffalo.

Though the Bills (5-5) have lightened his special teams load since Alexander suffered a hamstring injury against the Patriots in Week 8, the veteran wants to continue to play where he initially made his mark in the league.

"I definitely want to be a part of that," Alexander said, "because I still consider myself as one of the top guys in the league as far as covering kicks."

Lorenzo Alexander, Marshawn Lynch

On the defensive side, the Bills activated Shaq Lawson, the former Clemson star, from the physically-unable-to-perform list in late October, but he remains the backup behind Alexander.

"He's not gonna start now," Ryan said. "Alexander has earned that."

Indeed, along with Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford and Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril, Alexander leads the NFL in sacks despite recording only nine sacks in his first nine seasons and never having more than two and half in any previous year. He also has three forced fumbles and 44 tackles in 2016.

While saying he feels as good as he did during his 2012 Pro Bowl campaign, the twilight of his career has turned into his coming-out party.

"I'm just trying to go out with a bang," Alexander said.

Follow Jeff Fedotin on Twitter @JFedotin.

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