When John Alt signed a football letter of intent with the University of Iowa in 1980, he didn't have any idea what his future in football would be. A tight end in high school at Columbia Heights, Minnesota, he arrived in Iowa City as a 6-8 230 pound Freshman thin in body but wide in the eyes.
Legendary Iowa Coach, Hayden Fry had just begun his run of building Iowa football to national prominence.
Kirk Ferentz was then a 24 year old offensive line coach. Fry was very wise in hiring his coaches and saw a great future ahead for Kirk in tutoring young men. Although Iowa should now be called the Cradle of Coaches due to Hayden, the hiring of Ferentz has to be the hallmark of the Fry regime. All the other great coaches on Fry's staff were either experienced veterans like Bill Snyder, Barry Alvarez and Bill Brashier or had been players at Iowa and stayed as graduate assistants like Bobby Stoops and Dan McCarney. Kirk Ferentz was an outsider. He had been a graduate assistant for the legendary offensive line coach, Joe Moore, at Pitt. Ferentz was brought in to teach the pass blocking skills needed to run Hayden's offense.
So the growing Alt was turned over to a position coach barely older than he. "Although I started in the 1982 Rose Bowl as a Tight End, I was approached by Fry and Ferentz before spring practice to switch to the offensive line", Alt said. "I was up to 255 pounds then as my body was filling into my frame. Kirk told me that any future that I would have in the NFL would be as an offensive lineman. Although I could move for my size, I was outgrowing the TE position", John added.
"Left Tackle was totally new for me. Although I had some run blocking skills developed as a tight end, pass blocking required a set of skills that I had to learn from scratch. My long arms and athletic ability helped in the process, but Ferentz had to teach me everything. He is absolutely the best in the business at developing offensive linemen. Ferentz was up to speed on all the techniques that I would need to be effective. He taught me the positioning, angle and punch techniques that I used all through my NFL career. Kirk taught me leverage, how to create a window and how to make the defensive lineman make his move.
"Pass blocking is what offensive linemen get paid for in the NFL. Keeping the great defensive ends off the quarterback is what playing left tackle is all about at the pro level. I owe a good deal of my success to Kirk Ferentz and the fundamentals that he drilled into me. I didn't have to learn anything new during my NFL career", Alt said emphatically."
"I did have to get bigger, as my playing weight grew to 325 pounds. Although, the extra weight and strength were needed to help keep the defensive players at bay, the skill set was in place."
"Anyone aspiring to be an offensive lineman in the NFL could not get a better instructor than Kirk Ferentz", Alt concluded.
John Alt is a successful businessman now in Minneapolis. He is also a member of the National "I" Club Board at the University of Iowa. Since he doesn't need to carry all the weight anymore, he has trimmed down to a svelte 285.