Prospect Q&A: LB Jon Alston

Jon Alston talks about his strengths, his special teams experience, why playing safety might not be so crazy, who he met with at the Combine, and much more in this exclusive interview with Ed Thompson.

Question: You have an interest in drama, is that right?

John Alston: I admire it; I've always been into movies, theatre and the arts it's just another side of me.

Q: I saw your nickname is "Stone." How did you get that name?

JA: One of my teammates called me that and it just kind of spread. My last name is Alston and nobody wants to call you your real name in college so they called me Stone.

Q: Pretty appropriate…

JA: Yeah, I guess so considering I'm built like a statue. (laughs)

Q: You had a scary moment in high school with a head to head collision. How did you deal with that at that age and not have some trepidation coming back onto the football field?

JA: It's just one of those things that happens in football – you get hurt. That same season I hurt my MCL, but my injuries are far less than some guys with torn ACL's that continued to play. The thought of quitting football never crossed my mind. I was out there the next weekend. 

Q: What are the strengths you feel that you can bring to an NFL club…particularly your rookie season?

JA: I like to answer that question with -- my attitude. Because there are a lot of guys blessed physically with skill and talent, but you have to have the right attitude to apply it. First and foremost, I am a team player. I'm a team guy; I'll do whatever the team asks but I'll do it in a way that maximizes what I can do to help. I want to win and I think when a person wants to win so much they are willing to do what it takes, they can spread that to other guys. In any locker room that sort of thing is needed and I can bring that. You're also going to get a guy who can make a lot of plays, who flies all over the field, is very explosive and very fast. I think I can bring a lot to any team that wants to invest in me.

Q: Teams are counting on their rookies to contribute on special teams. Tell us about your experience and which units you've played on and which ones you feel you can excel and contribute on at the pro level…

During my career at Stanford I played on every major team with the exception of the field goal team. Most of the time I played on kickoffs and I played punt return every year, blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown. I played on the punt team for the first time this year and did my job pretty well. I was on the front line of punt return early in my career, I wasn't very good so I didn't do it much after that. But, I did it at East/West and I was pretty good at it so I've kind of grown as a player and my skills have improved. I think at the next level I'd be a pretty good punt rusher from the edge, I think I'd be a terror on kickoffs and if someone wants to put me as a gunner on punt returns, I love that too.

Q: I looked at the fact that over your last two seasons you had 16.5 sacks and I can't imagine teams wanting to move you to safety when you bring that kind of speed and expertise from the edge like that to put pressure on the quarterback. 

JA: I'm not sure, another thing is, I'm used to playing the edge and you look at what a team like St. Louis was doing with Adam Archuleta. They used him on the edge and for contain and it's kind of what Denver did with John Lynch this year. So some teams bring the safety more now than they have in the past so teams will find a lot of clever ways of adding pressure on the quarterback.

Q: A lot of guys who get selected to the Senior Bowl figure that's the showcase game and don't end up playing in both [Senior Bowl & East/West Shrine game]. Why did you go to both games?

JA: I got into the Senior Bowl late, after I was at the East/West for about three days. So, it wound up working out that I did both. I'm thankful for the opportunity to have done both, because a lot of people think the Senior Bowl is the bigger game, which it is because of the ESPN coverage and everything else, but there were a very large number of scouts at the East/West Shrine game. It is something I definitely don't regret. I was a little tired after those two weeks, but everything worked out just fine. 

Q: Was there anything different about the experience of one game versus the other that brought more value to you?

JA: I enjoyed both games in a different sense because of the way they're structured. The Senior Bowl is very NFL oriented. I was on the Titans staff and the opposite team was on the 49ers staff. We didn't have that at the East/West and that was a major difference. Obviously the location, San Antonio versus Mobile brought a bit of a different atmosphere. What I really enjoyed was meeting a lot of the other guys. What I found was a lot of these up-and-coming players are really just good guys. 

Q: You're obviously a very aggressive player out on the football field, but I read in the pregame you go more into a relaxing, meditative type state leading up to the game. Is that true?

JA: Any good athlete would tell you before they go out there and do something they see it first. I spend my time before a game meditating and visualizing what I'm going to do on the field because by the time you get on the field, you've already felt everything; you've seen it before and know how the best way to react to it. Obviously nobody plays perfect, but that helps me play a lot better and fearlessly.

Q: How much of your execution on the field do you attribute to the game film and intellectual side versus using your instincts out there?

JA: When I watch game film, I like to see what other teams are going to do. But, if you study too much game film and start thinking about tendencies too much it becomes a guessing game instead of you reading your keys and reacting to what the other teams are doing to you as things are going. So I like to use those instincts. There are a lot of different formations and a lot of things teams can do offensively but the truth of the matter is they are going to run or they're going to pass and there are only slight variations of that. Your responsibilities aren't that much different no matter what they do. If you're ready for that, if you have the basics down, you're pretty much ready for anything.

Q: I'm sure that performance helped fill up your interview card a bit. Who did you meet with at the combine during the formal interviews, where you met with the coaches and general managers?

JA: I met with six teams, and that came before the actual workouts…the night before. I met with the Bengals, Colts, Denver, Houston, St. Louis and the Patriots. Those were the six teams I actually spoke with. It was a pleasure to be able to meet Coach Lewis from Cincinnati and Coach Dungy, which was awesome. I was very honored by their presence, those guys are football history right there so I was pretty excited to be in the same room.

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