Dual sport-star Anthony Alford revealed this week to Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger that Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolous offered him a contract extension on the last day of his third successive brief baseball season in early July.
Alford did not reveal much about the offer, other than that it was for five years, and presumably would mean that he would have to forego his college football commitment.
We imagine that the dollars discussed were substantial. The raw, but premium-tooled athlete had just finished a week in low A ball with Lansing, where Alford's prodigious athletic talents were put on display (.320/.320/.480, with 4 SB's in 25 At Bats), despite the fact that he had totalled 48 plate appearances in the Gulf Coast League over two summers.
Alford admitted that the Blue Jays, who had selected him in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft and gave him a $750 000 bonus despite his stated intention of playing quarterback at Southern Mississippi, pulled something of an all-out blitz, telling Kellenberger, "He (Anthopolous) put some deals on the table and made it difficult for me."
Obviously, Anthopolous didn't make things that difficult, as Alford carried through with his plans to report for Ole Miss' training camp after getting married in mid-July. Alford told Kellenberger:
"Football was my first love, and even if I made $100 million down the road in baseball, I'd still regret not giving football a shot."
So we can safely assume the answer Alford gave AA was "no, thanks."
Alford red-shirted at Ole Miss last football season as a result of transferring after a tumultuous freshman campaign at Southern Miss. He often quarterbacked the scout team in practice last year, and while he has moved to the other side of the ball in a bid to gain a starting position, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has liked the looks of Alford behind centre in practice. He likely will be a back-up at defensive safety, and his blazing speed may be put to use on the punt return team. Understandably, this is an athlete they want on the field.
Alford's dream all along, of course, has been to play football. We have heard (but couldn't substantiate) that Alford has confided to friends that he would rather play arena football than pro baseball. While there's no questioning his desire to play at the college level, we would question the wisdom of that decision if things were to come to that. The Blue Jays are obviously willing to make Alford a wealthy young man if he was to focus solely on baseball. We have written before about Alford not having the best influences in his upbringing. His father is currently serving a sentence for dealing Oxycodone, and his mother was arrested in 2014 on the same charges. Judging by his tweets, he has left his young bride behind in his hometown of Petal, and he appears to be boarding with a family in Oxford for the college year. We wonder what, if any, counsel was available to him in Lansing, hundreds of miles away from home, when Anthopolous was trying to convince him to switch.
It's far too early to determine what Alford's football future will hold. Two years ago, as one of the top recruits in the nation, the sky appeared to be the limit. Alford now is trying to rebuild his name and reputation on the gridiron.
We are quite disappointed, but not surprised by Alford spurning the Jays offer, whatever it was. And he still is very young, having just turned 20 last month. Even though he's far behind his baseball peers in terms of experience, he showed this summer that he's not all that far behind in development. There's little doubt that he would reach his potential in a hurry if he was to concentrate solely on baseball. If he had accepted the Blue Jays offer, he likely would've remained in Lansing for most of the summer, and headed to Instructional League in the fall. Given his athleticism, we could see him in the majors by 2016, when he will be readying for his junior football season at Ole Miss, presuming he doesn't leave school early and declare for the NFL draft.
Alford will make his Ole Miss debut on August 28th against Boise State. We admit that we'll be looking for a live stream of it.