FRIESEN: Bombers’ Alford on whirlwind NFL tour

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DeAundre Alford was on the outskirts of Atlanta, on his way to a rather important appointment, when he took a phone call from Winnipeg.

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The Blue Bombers defensive back was about to work out for the NFL’s Falcons.

Not bad for a kid who grew up in nearby Griffin, Ga., playing quarterback in the park.

“My father is a huge Falcons fan,” Alford told the Winnipeg Sun . “My step-mother, she’s a huge Green Bay Packers fan. And it’s crazy, ’cause I’ve got a Green Bay Packers workout coming up, too. I grew up a huge Falcons fan, too, so just to have the opportunity to be in a situation where I can become an Atlanta Falcon, it’s just a great feeling.”

It’s also a bit of a whirlwind.

Since Alford helped the Bombers win a second straight Grey Cup as a first-year pro, he’s been in hot demand down south.

He’d already shown his stuff to the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. Atlanta was his third in an 11-team tour.

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“It’s crazy,” the 24-year-old said. “I’ve got Arizona, Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints. That’ll take me through February. Denver Broncos actually just called, but I’m so booked to the deadline that I can’t even get that team in. It’s an amazing feeling, man. I just feel blessed.

“I’m all over. It’s a lot of air miles.”

With that much interest, it’ll be surprising if Alford doesn’t land a contract and wind up in an NFL training camp next summer.

He’s one of two Bombers drawing considerable attention from south of the border, Canadian offensive lineman Drew Desjarlais the other.

A CFL all-star as a rookie, Alford fit like a glove into the Winnipeg secondary, leading the team with four interceptions and ranking second with 48 defensive tackles. He also scored a touchdown and forced a fumble.

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Still young enough to have more upside, it appears he’ll be one of those rare discoveries to parlay a CFL spot into a shot at the NFL after just one season.

Winnipeg teammates who’ve been down that road have offered some good advice.

“They basically told me to live through the moment, enjoy the moment, enjoy the process,” he said. “And try to take as many workouts as I can. I’m very confident that I’m going to be an NFL athlete next year.

“It’s definitely a childhood dream. Coming from America, your goal is to make it to the NFL.”

When you only begin playing football your last year of high school, though, and attend a small college like Tusculum University in Tennessee, you’re already on the road less travelled.

“I try my best to capitalize on any opportunity that come my way,” Alford said. “I just knew coming from a smaller school it would be harder to get where I needed to go. Because there’s so much hype on the guys who come from Power 5 schools. But I always had that mindset they can find talent anywhere. That just helped contribute to my grind. It helped me work out harder.”

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That work paid off in his first CFL training camp, when he emerged from a pack of 27 defensive backs to win a starter’s position.

He and first-year Bomber Deatrick Nichols smothered any notion their side of the secondary would be a team weakness.

Instead, Alford was a key part of one of the better defences the CFL has seen in years.

“And now I’m a Grey Cup champion, man. My first championship, ever. The CFL actually set me up to be able to accomplish my dream. I really appreciate the Winnipeg organization. I want to thank those guys for putting me in the situation I’m in right now.

“That one year I did in the CFL made me a better person on and off the field, whether it’s football or just a man in general.”

Alford gave a shout-out to veteran safety Brandon Alexander, in particular, for being a mentor.

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Wherever he goes next, he’ll take a boatload of memories with him.

None will have more staying power than two plays in the Grey Cup game: his first-quarter breakup of a pass to Hamilton receiver Brandon Banks and the wild, final pass that went off Nichols’ hands, first to Winston Rose, then to Kyrie Wilson for the game-clinching interception in overtime.

“Just looking through that play, it’s just crazy,” Alford said. “And just the feeling that I got, once I realized that Kyrie Wilson intercepted the ball and ended the game – it’s a feeling that I really can’t explain.

“That’s something I’ll visualize and remember for the rest of my life.”

His goal now: drum up three or four NFL offers and choose the best situation.

He’ll have his dad, his step-mom and his mother, all back in Griffin, pulling for him no matter what jersey he wears.

One thing is certain: he’ll earn whatever he gets.

“Whatever you put into your craft is what you get out,” Alford said. “It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of blood, sweat and sometimes tears. The whole process of grinding, man. And I’m blessed just to see it paying off.”

pfriesen@postmedia.com

Twitter: @friesensunmedia

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