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October 2, 2013

Two-sport athlete Alford settling in at safety

OXFORD, Miss. -- Southeastern Conference football and professional baseball would seem to an unenviable load, but Anthony Alford is handling the heavy-duty roles quite well.

The Petal, Miss., native is a sophomore at Ole Miss, sitting out the 2013 season because of the NCAA transfer rule after leaving Southern Miss this past summer. An appeal to play immediately was denied, so Alford is using the time to get used to safety instead of quarterback. He'll have three to play three starting in the spring.

That transition is moving along rapidly, and that's all the more incredible since Alford is spending his summers in the Toronto Blue Jays organization. He was picked No. 112 overall in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft and inked a deal worth considerably more than the $424,000 slot structure for that selection.

He's allowed to keep his football amateur eligibility while being a professional in baseball. It's a busy situation, but it appears to be working out for the best. MLB.com had Alford the No. 6 Blue Jays prospect heading into the season.

"The first two years it has gone pretty well," Alford said. "Hopefully i have a future in football when the time comes to it. (The Blue Jays) wanted me to stay the whole time. They didn't expect me to have as good of a summer as I did. I went down there and did well, had a lot of success, and I go back next summer and do it again."

Alford spent several weeks in the Blue Jays' system, and Toronto is bringing him along very slowly -- a normal occurrence for any toolsy prospect and even more so because of Alford's limited baseball schedule. In addition to instructionals, he played six games with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays and hit .227. He struck out six times and also walked six times. The speedy right-handed outfielder was 2-for-5 against left-handers and 3-for-17 against righties.

He was promoted to Class A Lansing but didn't see action.

His main focus is preparing for next season with the Rebels. Alford admits he spent time being "down" after his appeal was denied, but now he sees the silver lining.

"I know everything will work out in the end," Alford said. "It's a sucky deal, but there are positives because I get an extra year… I get to learn the system for a whole year. When the spring rolls along, I'll be caught up fully. I was behind when I first got here."

Alford said he likes contact and safety is a good fit. He was an Army All-American at quarterback and played in nine games for the Golden Eagles as a freshman, completing 45 percent of his passes for 664 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions.

His athleticism and length make him a textbook fit on the defensive side of the ball. Considerable playing time was likely if he was eligible this season for the Rebels.

"I'm not going to necessarily say I was a true quarterback," Alford said. "I was the best athlete on my high school team so I played quarterback. I happen to be able to throw the ball so I had some success. Going from quarterback to safety was an adjustment, but I've picked up on it."


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