"It's a great feeling, just a great feeling," New York's third-round pick said. "Being only 10 minutes from home, you can't beat that."
"This is a guy who we were very, very impressed with," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "A real penetrating inside pass rusher who I think is going to be a very good football player for the New York Giants. A guy that can play the run as well. Just very, very quick and athletic, and not only that, a guy that really wants to be a Giant. That was pretty exciting for me, that he wants to be a Giant."
Alford, a 6-3, 304-pound Penn State product, has been a Giants fan his whole life. That's why when he was driving home from a restaurant and got the call that Big Blue had chosen him, he couldn't control himself.
"I was told I'd go anywhere from (round) 2 until 5," Alford said. "I wasn't surprised but I sure was happy. I used one of my friend's cell phones, and immediately called my grandmother (Diane Reynolds), who raised me and my brothers and sisters. She started crying. Then I got out of the car, ran down the street and did a little victory dance. I got a lot of weird looks."
His first time stepping foot in the New York locker room is something Alford will never forget.
"I grew up watching LT and Strahan," he smiled. "It's a wonderful feeling just being in this locker room. Being here is like a dream come true."
For the Giants, it'll be a dream come true if they're able to add a strong two-way defensive tackle to their thin, often ineffective rotation.
"We wanted to get another guy inside to help our defensive front, so it was a need and there was value there as well," GM Jerry Reese said. "We had a nice grade on him. Again, he has been productive. You win football games with this kind of player."
In 46 games at Penn State, Alford started 41 times. He recorded 118 tackles (60 solos) with four fumble recoveries. He forced three fumbles and batted away a dozen passes. He's tied with Bruce Clark and LaVar Arrington for eighth on the school's career-record list with 19 sacks, good for 114 yards in losses.
"If I make plays and get sacks, I'll be fine," Alford said. "I'm more of a finesse sack guy. I use a lot of moves on the line of scrimmage. My take-off is pretty good."
"Jay Alford is a defensive tackle that has played at a high level, very productive," Reese said. "We really like his motor and how hard he plays. We really like how he would fit in our rotation as a hard charger, an inside player to help shore up our defensive front."
Coughlin is pleased that Alford can comfortably line up at either of the DT spots.
"He has played over the center," he said. "He has a very, very quick move, which is something that jumps right out at you. First of all his sack total for his career was very productive compared to some of the other guys at that position. He has played on the nose, or on the center, and he has played very effectively there, but he has also played in the three technique position. His versatility is something we will take advantage of."
Last season, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel stated that Alford was the best DT he had seen all year. But things didn't exactly start so well for Alford in Happy Valley.
Earlier in his career, when he weighed only about 255 pounds, Alford was upset that he had to play inside. He was getting beaten up pretty badly, and even considered transferring to Miami. But he stuck it out and became one of Penn State's unsung defensive heroes.
As he grew in size, his talent level grew as well. Giants defensive line coach Mike Waufle was scouting another member of the Nittany Lions when he discovered Alford.
"Last year when I was evaluating Tamba Hali (a defensive end now with the Kansas City Chiefs), this number 13 kept showing up play after play," Waufle said. "That's where I got my first interest. Then I followed him after that and found out that he was from Orange, New Jersey. That was exciting. He's excited to be a Giant. It's very important for him to do very well and be back home. He was highly productive at Penn State and that says a lot in the Big Ten Conference."
Alford's hometown of Orange, NJ, isn't the nicest of neighborhoods. That's why Alford was glad he was able to make something of himself and get out unscathed.
"I didn't want to be one of those kids that were stuck in Orange forever," he said. "Football was my way out. I was blessed to know how to play the game."
He mostly credits Reynolds for keeping him and his siblings on the straight and narrow.
"She raised all my brothers and sisters in the church," he said. "That helped keep a good head on our shoulders."
For now, the bright-eyed Alford's goals are simple.
"I just want to make the team and play," he said. "If I can do that, then I'll set some more goals after that. I'm hoping my hard work and my dedication sets me apart and gets me where I need to be."
Waufle knows he can get more from his front line – and Alford's addition can only help in that department.
"I want them all to get better," said. "I'm not satisfied with it. We have the ability to put tremendous heat on the quarterback. You see it. You watch the same film I watch, the same games I watch. But we've got to get the home runs. We're hitting singles, doubles, triples. We have the ability to do it, we just need to hit more home runs."
Now batting cleanup for your New York Football Giants: hometown hero, Jay Alford.
Happy Homecoming, Short Commute for Alford
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