March 12, 2009 in Sports

Alfred takes af2 test drive

Former Eastern lineman hopes he can catch on with Shock
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Dan Pelle photo

Matt Alfred, right, battles Bobby Byrd during practice on Tuesday.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Shortly after parting ways with the Seattle Seahawks following a brief stay in their NFL rookie camp, Matt Alfred was admittedly disgruntled with football.

“At that point, I kind of said, ‘OK, maybe it’s time to write a close to that chapter of my life and move on to the next adventure,” said the 6-foot-3, 300-pounder, who started four years on the offensive line at Eastern Washington University and helped the Eagles to the quarterfinals of the 2007 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs before graduating last spring.

That next “adventure,” as it turned out, unfolded in the parking lot of a local car dealership, where Alfred tried his hand at selling automobiles.

It turned out to be almost as short-lived as his Seahawks gig.

“I was just bouncing around, looking for something to pay the bills in the summer and seeing if I liked it or not,” said Alfred, a two-time All-Big Sky Conference selection at Eastern, where he started in 44 consecutive games. “It was OK, but with the auto industry struggling like it is, I got downsized.”

That left Alfred, who had returned to EWU to continue work on his master’s in business, looking for another way to help subsidize his continuing educational endeavors. That’s when he got a call from his agent, asking if he might want to try football again – this time at the arenafootball2 league level with the Spokane Shock.

“It wasn’t something I had considered before, but I figured, ‘What the heck?’ ” Alfred said. “I was back in school at Eastern taking classes at night, and this was something I could do in the mornings and on weekends, so it works out perfectly.”

Now all Alfred has to do to earn the $200 a game, plus an additional $50 if you win, that af2 teams pay is to make the team. That’s far from a lock, considering coach Adam Shackleford invited nine offensive linemen, including two returning starters, to training camp, which opened Monday.

The Shock donned pads for the first time Wednesday morning and Alfred continued the latest learning process he has adopted.

“There’s a lot of little twists to the old football formula I learned,” he said. “But it’s fun, and it’s nice just to be back in the game.”

This version of football – with its 8-on-8 format, 50-yard field and end-zone rebound nets – is a whole different animal than Alfred attempted to tame during his stay at Eastern.

“I had been to a couple of games at the Arena before, and everyone who has ever watched one knows it’s just insane,” he said. “I heard someone describe it as a big party where a football game happens to be going on.”

As far as learning the different schemes and strategies involved with the arena game, which features only three down linemen and prohibits twisting and stunting, Alfred expects few problems.

“It’s really a lot more simplified for the linemen,” he said. “You just block the guy directly in front of you, and you don’t have to worry about twists and all that stuff you have to worry about in college. At this level, it’s like, ‘Here, you fight this guy.’

“It’s really pretty simple.”

The hardest adjustment for Alfred, who was used primarily at guard in college, might be getting used to having the quarterback’s hands under his backside.

The Shock have an opening at center this season after last year’s starter, Rico Ochoa, left. Alfred is one of several players getting a look at that position.

“Playing guard is second nature to me, but center is a little bit different,” said Alfred, whose younger brother, Kenny, will be a senior this fall at Washington State University, where he plays center for the Cougars. “My brother has some experience with having hands under his butt, so maybe he can help me out.

“He didn’t play center until he got to college, so if my little brother can learn the position, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to, too. We’ll see.”


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