Notre Dame has been lucky to have Tony Alford a part of its football program for five seasons. Plucked from the Louisville coaching staff by then head coach Charlie Weis, Alford made his mark immediately as a dynamic recruiter, while also capably coaching the running back position. On a staff made up of divergent personalities, Alford was a guy that immediately “got” Notre Dame, and did a very compelling job of selling the school.
Never was that more obvious than in the recruitment of Louis Nix. A one-time Miami commitment, Alford won Nix and his family over on the value of a Notre Dame education, even when the football program was crumbling around him. Without a head coach in place, and with no certainty that a job was there for him in South Bend, Alford put his money where his mouth was, convincing Nix that he should be at Notre Dame, regardless of the head coach.
Fast forward three-plus seasons, and Alford is a staple on the Irish coaching staff, and as pure of a fit as the staff Kelly hand-picked to bring in. He’s had his hand in winning multiple big recruiting battles — the most recent running back Greg Bryant — and he’s developed as a coach, working with both running backs and wide receivers, while also running the Irish’s recruiting efforts.
Yet he enters this season with a heavy heart after the sudden death of his brother and best friend Aaron, a former Utah assistant coach. Gone from the program for almost a week to attend his brother’s funeral and attend to family matters, Alford talked about returning to work and the outpouring of support that helped he and his family through their grieving.
“People talk about the Notre Dame family a lot, but you don’t find out about it until you go through something hard personally,” Alford said yesterday. “The outpouring of support from the Notre Dame family from people who didn’t personally know me was out of this world. This place is special.
“Football puts a lot of things in perspective about what’s important. If you care about people, let them know. Do not let a day go by without telling them.”
Still, when asked if he’s ready to get back to work and is excited about football, it didn’t take long for Alford to show where his head is at.
“Are you kidding me? We play in a week – yeah I’m excited,” Alford said. “Do not get me wrong – I love my brother. But that does not mean I don’t want to play and win and compete. If you remember we played my brother a couple years ago and beat the mess out of them.”
Here’s a clip of Alford speaking about his recent family challenges, courtesy of our friends over at IrishIllustrated.com.