ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The words don't come easily to Alexander Johnson.
As we're speaking on June 11, his two-week-old daughter, all 8 pounds of her, is resting on his chest. For a man of his size, those 8 pounds may be barely perceptible to him, but there's a magnitude that he clearly feels that goes beyond just the physical.
"Man, it's hard to explain," Johnson says. "It's so lovely."
After Ada's birth on May 27 to him and Johnson's fiancée, Alyce, the Broncos linebacker has felt fortunate that he's been able to spend so much time at home. The novel coronavirus pandemic may have created a lot of upheaval to the norms of daily life and interrupted the team's usual offseason training, but since he's able to train remotely and attend virtual meetings, Johnson has been home with his family much more than he normally would have.
"Right now we would usually be in [mini]camp, but this has actually been a blessing not having to be in camp," Johnson says. "I'm able to spend a lot of time with my baby right now. I'm going to take full advantage of that until we have to report back to the office."
Having a child is obviously a life-changing event; it changes how you spend your days, and it also changes your perspective. Johnson says he believes that Ada's arrival in his life has only accentuated his spirit, in addition to making him feel a growing sense of responsibility as a provider.
"I've always been an uplifting guy," Johnson says. "Ain't much that can get me down. But just her being around, it just uplifts my spirits even more. I can just look at her, and [it'll] bring a smile to my face. And it's, like, each day, every day I wake up, now you really know you've got somebody who's really dependent on you. You've got to go a little harder and just commit yourself to being an even better person when you know you've got somebody depending on you."
Beyond just the basic needs of food and shelter, Johnson recognizes and is excited by the knowledge that his decisions, words and beliefs will shape Ada's future. There's a considerable weight to it and it won't always be easy, but he is eager for the full journey that fatherhood is, all the ups and downs.
"I'm not nervous about it," Johnson says. "It's pretty much just enjoyment. It's funny. A lot of people are like, 'You're going to be a good dad!' I'm like, 'Nah, I'm not going to be a good dad.' And they look at me crazy, and I'm like, 'I'm going to be a great dad.'
"It's a process that I'm going to enjoy every moment of it. Obviously down the road, everything will have their difficulties in life and stuff like that, but without difficulties, you can't really shape yourself or make yourself. I'm just excited. It's so joyful."
As he becomes a parent, Johnson looks to his mother as a role model for the kind of provider and protector he aims to be.
"Obviously she taught us a lot of things, but one of the biggest things was she showed us instead of just telling us," Johnson says. "She showed us she's a hard worker; she worked two jobs a lot. Always kept food on the table. Even when things didn't seem like they were going right, she made sure we was good. We wasn't rich or nothing like that; we lived in the hood. But we never had to want for nothing. What we needed, we had. Obviously we didn't get everything we wanted, but she made sure what we need, we had it.
"… It takes a village to raise a kid, but [I look to] just the endurance and strength and passion and knowing you've got to do what you've got to do. No matter what comes across in your life or what happens, you've got to make sure you do what you've got to do to take care of your kids. And that's one of the biggest things that I know I'm going to do just from learning from my mother and my grandmom."
Those lessons will guide Johnson as he raises Ada — and what he hopes will be a growing family. Having grown up in a family with three brothers, Johnson knows that a big family can foster so much love.
"I always wanted a big family," Johnson says. "Just a start with my first one; I want to have three more kids. … I think a little bit of it is just the way my family was. I have three brothers, and just growing up with siblings and being able to compete with them and just have all the love around you — obviously you're going to have little fights here and there — but if anything goes wrong, you always can call on one of your brothers, and there's nothing like living with them right there beside you."
Johnson's dream is just beginning, and, with a laugh, he describes a piece of his future that he envisions.
"One of the biggest things that I do love the most is I was able to play sports with my brothers in high school," Johnson says. "So that right there is pretty amazing, and I just told my lady the other day, I was like, 'Man, shoot … when I'm, like, 45, 43, like older older, I don't got to call anybody to be like, "Hey, let's play some pickup ball!" I'll have my kids all with me to go play.'"
Until that point though, Johnson is content to simply stay in the moment. Ada, like all children, will grow up quickly, and he doesn't want to miss a thing.
"I've been wanting to be a dad for a while, and everything's been so amazing about the process," Johnson says. "I am enjoying every moment with her."
To celebrate Father's Day, take a look back through photos of several current and former Broncos players and coaches with their children.