Southern Miss QB a special talent
HUNTINGTON — After starting 0-6 this season, it would be easy for Southern Miss true freshman quarterback Anthony Alford to get a bit discouraged.
But it'll take a lot more than that to get Alford down.
In fact, the multi-sport standout is using the mentality from arguably his best sport -- baseball -- to help him through the tough times.
In baseball, the best players fail seven out of every 10 at-bats.
While he's certainly not intent on failing, it has taught him to stay humble, hungry and level-headed on the playing field, no matter what sport he's playing.
"You have to have short-term memory because there's a lot of mistakes to be made in baseball," Alford said. "In football, you obviously can't make as many mistakes, but it has helped me mentally. I put everything in the past, no matter what. I look forward to the next game and don't let the past bother me. There are no what-ifs. I'm not that type of person."
Southern Miss (0-6, 0-2 Conference USA) awaits Marshall (2-4, 1-1 C-USA) for a 7 p.m., Saturday, game in M.M. Roberts Stadium that is televised on the CBS Sports Network (Huntington cable Ch. 174).
A lesser player might be moaning and groaning about such a start to the season, but Alford is happy to be playing the game.
Alford was regarded as a first-round draft pick in the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft, but his insistence on playing football had many suitors shying away. In the face of potentially losing so much, Alford boldly announced his intentions to play football at Southern Miss on Jan. 7 during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
So just exactly what was Alford willing to give up for his love of football?
How about millions of dollars in signing bonuses, which are generally awarded to first-round draft picks.
Alford's love for both sports and ability to stay true to who and what he really was became rewarded on June 5 when the Toronto Blue Jays took a chance and drafted him in the third round (112th pick overall).
There was certainly the chance Alford would not sign with the Blue Jays, given that he could opt to not sign and play baseball for Southern Miss while finishing out his collegiate career in both sports before going back into the draft at a later time.
However, the Blue Jays were willing to work with Alford on his desire to play baseball and because of their loyalty and understanding, Alford signed with Toronto.
It's the ultimate act of compromise. The Blue Jays gave him the leeway to live out his dream of being an NCAA Division I quarterback, and in exchange for that loyalty, Alford gave up potentially millions of dollars. He will report to the Blue Jays next spring.
With so much riding on the move, there is no way that Alford -- the No. 10 quarterback prospect in the Class of 2012 as touted by scouting services -- was going to come in to Southern Miss to hold a clipboard for first-year coach Ellis Johnson.
As the season started, Southern Miss had Alford as the backup for Chris Campbell and they were both playing in a platoon system. Both were hurt in a loss to Western Kentucky, and Alford returned against Boise State and got back into the flow of the offense.
Last week against UCF, Alford made his second start of the season and turned the corner for the Golden Eagles.
Alford threw for 165 yards while rushing for 71 yards and two scores to lead Southern Miss back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit on the road to force overtime with Conference USA East Division leader UCF.
While Southern Miss fell 38-31 in double-overtime, it proved to be a breakthrough performance that showed Marshall's players and coaches exactly how dangerous he can be.
"There's no question he's a great athlete," Marshall defensive coordinator Chris Rippon said. "He's a first-round baseball draft pick if he says I'm not going to college for football and he still got taken in the third round. Okay, we get it. He's good.
"But look at the teams they've played, too. Nebraska, Western Kentucky, who is playing well, Louisville, UCF -- those all real, real good teams. He got confidence last week and they started to become the Southern Miss that you've grown to know and expect them to be."
What makes Alford more dangerous is that he's once again paired with Steve Buckley, his former high school coach at Petal (Miss.). Buckley is now the Southern Miss offensive coordinator.
Alford has completed just 44 percent of his passes while throwing for 373 yards and three interceptions. However, he has rushed for 234 yards and five touchdowns.
Marshall knows it must contain him.
"It looks like the freshman -- Anthony Alford -- has settled in," Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. "He did a nice job managing the UCF game and he's playing with confidence right now. There's no question we'll have our hands full."