In the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons made their selection in Hammond native and Southeastern Louisiana CB Robert Alford. Whenever players from smaller colleges, especially local ones, emerge as top NFL draft prospects it always seems kind of cool to me. Some of the most outstanding players in NFL history have been products of small colleges across the Southeast.
Examples include Aeneas Williams, Willie Roaf, Terrell Owens, Jerry Rice, Donald Driver, DeMarcus Ware, Shannon Sharpe and Nate Newton. After the SEC missed out on these players from their own backyard for whatever reason, they all seemed to have a chip on their shoulder in trying to make it in the NFL.
With the exception of when they play against the Saints, I have a natural tendency to root for players that came out of lesser known colleges. Yet something just seems plain wrong with a Hammond native and Southeastern Louisiana Lion dressing up for the Dirty Birds. Alford obviously had no control over which team drafted him, but I would be willing to bet the Saints were "his team" growing up. I wonder if he is having any mixed feelings about going against his "hometown team" in his NFL debut, or does an NFL paycheck completely resolve that issue?
More than likely Alford will not have any time for mixed feelings as he will be tasked to defend against the Saints' greatest team strength in their passing attack. Projected as the back up to Asante Samuel, Alford is still expected to see plenty of action on Sunday, as he finished the preseason strong in the Falcons' last two games against the Titans and Jaguars. Tasked with facing Roddy White and Julio Jones during practice, news reports have stated that Alford has learned some tough lessons early on about the challenges of playing professional football.
Let's hope that Drew Brees & Company teach Alford even more in the season opener, while still wishing a local kid a long and successful career.