ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Not long into Kiko Alonso’s first practice, Bills coach Doug Marrone had to pull the overeager rookie middle linebacker aside to remind him that these were supposed to be non-contact sessions.
“He looked like he was ready to start tackling today,” Marrone said in May.
A month into training camp, the Bills had to rest Alonso for a few days after electronic conditioning monitors indicated he was in danger of overexerting himself because of the amount of ground he was covering in practice.
Four weeks into the season, the second-round draft pick out of Oregon has remained a relentless, havoc-creating presence.
“He’s full-tilt,” defensive end Mario Williams said.
And here’s the scary part, according to Marrone: “He’s actually getting better and better each week, too.”
That’s a frightening proposition for a player who has quickly established himself as one the NFL’s most promising defensive rookies. After four games, Alonso is tied for the NFL lead with four interceptions, to go with one sack, a forced fumble and recovered fumble. His 32 tackles are tops in Buffalo (2-2) and among league rookies.
And with two interceptions in a 23-20 win over Baltimore on Sunday, Alonso became the league’s first rookie linebacker since Al Richardson in 1980 to have an interception in three straight games. In Buffalo, no Bills linebacker has had a three-game streak since Darryl Talley in 1993.
Alonso’s production has led to national TV interviews and prompted a trend on Twitter. Using the hash tag “LegendOfKikoAlonso,” fans have concocted various amusing and unfathomable myths about the player, such as: “He once intercepted the same pass twice,” and “Kiko Alonso went tubing over Niagara Falls. Or as he calls it, `the lazy river.”‘
Unrelenting as he might be on the field with his sideline-to-sideline range, he’s soft-spoken off it. He even projects an air of anonymity in wearing a woolly Bills cap pulled tight across his ears and forehead.
Alonso has paid very little attention to the Paul Bunyan-size hype he’s generated.
“Nothing changes in what I’ve got to do,” he said. “I don’t think much of it. It’s great, but I know I just have to get a lot better.”