SLU’s Robert Alford has NFL draft history within reach

The Southeastern Louisiana football program has not had a player selected in the NFL draft in almost 30 years.

Thanks to cornerback Robert Alford, a drought that began after punter Brett Wright was chosen by the New York Jets in the eighth round in 1984 is about to end.

More than likely, it’ll be over Friday night, although it could take until Saturday before Alford’s name comes off the board. But after three decades, what’s one more day?

Alford, of course, would like to get it over with as soon as possible. The Hammond native is rated the 11th cornerback and 82nd player overall by NFLDraftScout.com in the draft, which begins with the first round Thursday night, continues with the second and third rounds Friday and concludes with Rounds 4 through 7 on Saturday.

After a solid college career, the 5-foot-10, 188-pounder has worked his way up the draft board with nice showings at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine as well as in his Pro Day workout. Waiting is always the toughest part of the process, which is why Alford is looking forward to Friday night.

“I wouldn’t say I’m nervous about it,” said Alford, who’s projected by NFLDraftScout.com as a second- or third-round pick. “I’m more anxious to find out what state I’m going to be playing in and what team I’ll be playing for this year.”

He recently was invited for visits with seven NFL teams — which he politely declined to name — and said agent Brian Mackler has told him that he could go in the second round thanks to the work he has put in since January.

When he arrived at Southeastern in 2008, Alford made it his goal to show the bigger programs that they made a mistake when they didn’t sign him. More importantly, he wanted to prove he could play with the big boys.

He can check both of those off his list. Alford played so well that he landed on the radar of NFL scouts during his junior season, then was an All-Southland Conference first-team selection as a senior, which helped earn him an invite to the Senior Bowl.

He was only the second Southeastern player to get that nod, joining All-America linebacker Ronnie Hornsby, who played in the showcase back in 1970.

Once there, Alford figured he had to change the thinking of hundreds of general managers, coaches and scouts, even though he had five interceptions as a junior and four more as a senior.

“The big knock against me before the Senior Bowl was the level of competition I played against,” he said. “But going there and going to the combine, those events helped me out a lot.”

It didn’t hurt that he had 4.43-second speed in the 40-yard dash, but Alford turned heads in the Senior Bowl with his cover skills. He broke up a pair of passes, and an interception thwarted a two-point conversion try in the fourth period.

But that wasn’t all. A standout return man for the Lions who had a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown last season, Alford also dazzled at the Senior Bowl when he returned the opening kickoff 88 yards to set up a score.

“It really was an honor to be able to go over there and do that,” he said of his Senior Bowl experience. “I hope it will be an inspiration to Southeastern players and motivate them to know they can get to the NFL.”

He had another nice showing at the combine in February in Indianapolis. Alford said he ranked in the top five among cornerbacks in five of seven physical tests, which included a 40-yard dash time of 4.39 seconds.

“A lot of teams talked to me at the Senior Bowl about my speed,” he said. “They said they could tell I had speed and that I played fast; they just didn’t see me do it against top-level players. I think I had a good week in Mobile; I competed with the top guys and showed them I belong in the NFL.”

Now, all he has to do is wait a little longer for the drought to end.