Football Could've Been Alt-ernate Ending for Flyers' Dman

If the Eagles raise the Vince Lombardi Trophy Sunday night, Flyers defenseman Mark Alt will be reminded of that other promising career he once had. 

As of now, Alt may be Philadelphia's only professional athlete to win a football championship in the state of Minnesota, where he was a prolific quarterback at St. Paul's Cretin-Derham high school, guiding the Raiders to the Class 5A state championship in 2009. He was considered the best football player in the state claiming the coveted Minnesota Player of the Year award.

Then again, all of that should come as little surprise. Mark's father, John, was one of the NFL's best offensive lineman from 1984-96, a two-time All-Pro tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs, and a member of their Ring of Honor where his name can be spotted easily inside Arrowhead Stadium.

"He pushed me hard," Mark said. "He just wanted the best for me. There is a great sense of pride I feel for him, not only because he played in the NFL, but because he is my dad." 

As much as Mark enjoyed football, there was that other sport that also piqued his interest.

"He was always outside on the rollerblades, always shooting around," John told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "We had pucks all over the yard. The lawnmower chewed up a thousand pucks over the course of his upbringing. Other kids, they played video games or whatever. He had no interest in that. He was always outside."

At one point, Mark was leaning towards a collegiate football career, and why not? He was offered a scholarship to play at his father's alma mater, the University of Iowa, under head coach Kirk Ferentz, and there were offers from UCLA and Stanford as well. Ultimately, he saw a more promising future playing hockey in his hometown at the University of Minnesota.

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"I think the opportunity at the time hockey just presented itself," Mark said. "I just got drafted. I knew I could go play at Minnesota right away, whereas football, you don't know. You don't know who's at that school, who the quarterbacks are, who's coming in. I think for me the opportunity (in hockey) was there."

Right away, Mark was a key contributor in his freshman season. As a sophomore, Alt and the Golden Gophers lost to Johnny Gaudreau and the Boston College Eagles at the 2012 Frozen Four in Tampa Bay. A year later the Carolina Hurricanes, who selected Alt in the 2010 NHL Draft, traded him to the Flyers for Brian Boucher, and he signed his first professional contract later that summer.

However, father and son still talk football. 

In fact, mention the Super Bowl to Alt's father, John, and the topic sets in like a hornet sting. Protecting legendary Joe Montana, Alt and the Chiefs were one game away from reaching Super Bowl XXVIII before losing to the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. It's as close as he ever got to playing on professional football's biggest stage, and it was even a conversation piece recently.

"I asked him about it a few years ago," Mark said about his father. "He definitely brought it up and he was definitely a little sour about it.

"He played 13 years and played on some good teams. Joe Montana was his quarterback and that sort of thing. They had teams that could have made a run and he definitely wishes he could have gone."

The Flyers' season will prevent Alt from attending Super Bowl LII in his home state and just down the road in Minneapolis, where he won his state title at the now demolished Metrodome. However, Alt can truly appreciate a quarterback's journey and can probably relate to Nick Foles who, like Alt, had played most of the season as an obscure backup until he was pressed into duty following the injury to Carson Wentz.

"The way he played in the NFC Championship and before that was outstanding," Mark said. "He's had successful years in the past and to take this team as far as they have and look as good as they did. They looked like a well-oiled machine in that championship game. They've been fun to watch."

After Alt witnessed the Eagles demolish his hometown Vikings, he now feels no different than the rest of the championship-starved fans who are hoping the 2017 Eagles bring back the city's first professional football title since 1960.

"It's going to come down to a big turnover," Alt said. "Against the Vikings, that first interception was a big momentum swing. If they can play solid on defense and get a turnover like that, I think they'll have a good shot."  

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