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February 10, 2012
Being stranded in an airport helped Tony Alford sort through his future.
Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy put in a phone call to Brian Kelly earlier this week seeking permission to speak with Alford about an open position, a request Kelly granted. Alford fielded the call then spent a day visiting with the Packers coaching staff.
Come Wednesday morning Alford had plenty to consider. He used seven hours stuck in the Green Bay airport to do some heavy thinking about his future.
“I don’t know if you guys have ever been to Green Bay’s airport for seven hours,” Alford said Friday in a meeting with media. “There’s not a whole lot to do. I sat there for a long time. It’s the first opportunity I’ve had in a long time to do nothing and I was kind of forced to do nothing. In seven hours you can think about a lot of stuff.
“A lot of the conversation for myself came into why I’m doing what I’m doing and why I enjoy coaching the college game and why I love being at Notre Dame and how blessed I am to be at Notre Dame and have the opportunities at a place like this.”
While Alford emphasized the Packers didn’t offer a job then and still haven’t done so, he appears set to continue in South Bend.
Among the staff shakeups Kelly announced Friday, Alford will return to coaching running backs while also working with the slot receivers. He will also assume the role of recruiting coordinator formerly held by Chuck Martin, who is now the offensive coordinator.
“I’m back in my wheelhouse, if you will,” Alford said. “But at the same time being with the receivers afforded me a great opportunity to learn and grow as a coach.”
Recruiting is one of the bigger reasons Alford, who will remain in the same geographic areas with his new title, foresees a future in college football. Building relationships starting in high school is one of the positives with which professional football couldn’t compete.
Jumping to the NFL affords no such opportunities.
“That’s something that I like about college football,” Alford said. “I like the ability to build relationships with guys and watch guys grow up. I use Louis Nix as an instance. I’ve watched him really grow up in the three years he’s been here. Two and a half years, I should say. That’s part of what I like. I see myself as a college football coach.
“Today that’s where I’m at. Could that change tomorrow or a year from now? Yeah, circumstances always change. But right now that’s in my heart and what I feel is best for me and my future.”
It might not be the last time Alford is courted to leave Notre Dame, but, at least in the near term, he has no visions of coaching anywhere else. The Irish can in part thank a cancelled flight for that.
“I’m ecstatic to be a part of this staff,” Alford said. “I’m ecstatic to be a part of this great institution and university. We’ve got great players. You ask guys to follow their heart when you’re recruiting them and sometimes I think we lose sight of that in our professional lives. Sometimes we lose sight of that. It was good seven hours to sit and do nothing.”
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