THE QUESTION for Kenny Alfred isn't whether he'll get a shot at the NFL, but if it's going to come via his name being called in the late rounds of this weekend's draft or a phone call afterward when teams are dialing furiously to lock up the best of the rest with free agent contracts. Regardless, the former WSU center tells CF.C he's ready, mentally and physically, for his chance at pro ball.
Alfred is checking in these days at 6-2, 295 pounds, and says he's in the best football shape of his life.
But where he goes and to what team aren't in the forefront of his mind.
"I'm not sitting in a dark room somewhere, rocking back and forth and thinking about it too much," quipped Alfred, who started 44 games in his Cougar career following an All-State run at Gig Harbor High. "All of my thoughts, all of my focus is on football but I've kind of wanted to keep my head away from that part of it the last couple weeks. I haven't been asking about it too much, but what I have heard is basically (a) later rounds (pick).
Alfred has drawn interest from throughout the NFL since the evaluation process formally began. Cleveland, Tennessee, Atlanta and Seattle are among the more recent teams to have made inquiries.
NFLdraftscout.com ranks the three-time Rimington Award watch list contender as the No. 10 center available in the draft. They cite his technique, quickness and versatility (he could also play guard) as his biggest strengths, but question his size and strength.
He's represented by Cameron Foster of the sports management group of Foster and Easley (the latter being Kenny Easley of Seattle Seahawk fame.) Foster's client list includes some familiar faces, like Tennessee All-Pro and former Eastern Washington standout Michael Roos who was coached by Paul Wulff, and former Cougar punter Kyle Basler, who had a couple of summer camp stints with the Browns.
ALFRED WAS NOT invited to the NFL Combine and didn't have many individual workouts with teams. But he was far from in the shadows. He played in the East-West Shrine Game, which is an annual stop for NFL scouts; his agent put highlight tape in all the right hands; and there was NFL Pro Day in Pullman on March 11 when scouts came to campus to put him and other seniors through the paces.
"I'm relying on the work I've put in the last few years. Not being invited to the Combine was okay -- I got a little extra time to train for our Pro Day ... I talked to a couple teams that day, worked out one-on-one for Cleveland, but the maximum benefit of that day was going in and feeling confident, feeling comfortable and being strong. It felt pretty good, and I think I did well. It was another rung in the ladder, and a step up," said Alfred.
At the Pro Day, Alred ran the 40 in 5.07 seconds, fired up 21 reps in the bench press, turned in a stellar 31 inches in the vertical leap, and 8'1" in the broad jump.
AT THE EAST-WEST game, Alfred said having the opportunity to compete against some of the nation's elite, and to soak up the knowledge of guys like Marty Schottenheimer like a sponge, was a valuable learning experience from a football perspective. But another aspect of the week had a bigger impact on him.
"Everybody had talked to me about how impactful that first day was when you go the Shriner's Hospital and see the children and their families there," said Alfred. "You really get a different perspective on what life is all about.
"I was able to talk to and play some games with the kids. To see terminal illness, a horrible thing, and how they've adjusted their lives to it, being able to be around those kids and have some interactions with them made the whole week take on a different kind of air. To see how much they've adapted and the maturity they have, I think it let us all see in some ways how insignificant a couple days of football can be."
THESE DAYS, LEADING up to the draft, Alfred is back home in Gig Harbor and working out solo five days a week.
"I'm always trying to get stronger and to readjust my weight in certain areas. I'm also working on my footwork every day, the football related drills I've been taught and the ones I've learned the last couple years (from Wulff), I want to make sure I keep that side of things as sharp as possible," said Alfred.
With the all-encompassing training required in the months leading up to the draft, Alfred said he hasn't been in close contact with some of the other Cougar '10 NFL hopefuls -- Xavier Hicks, Andy Mattingly and CFL prospect and Canadian Joe Eppele.
"Sounds like Joe went and did well in the CFL combine, and good for him. I saw him a couple days ago and he's looking really big in a really good way. I haven't heard much from the other guys or talked to them in a little while, I'm not in Pullman any longer and I think we're all absorbed in our own workout regimens and things we're doing," said Alfred.