Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Robert Alford is like so many players with
NFL aspirations - he faces a potentially grueling wait while the draft picks
tick away one at a time this week.
The additional problem potentially facing the Southeastern Louisiana
cornerback is whether teams have become scared of selecting him.
Alford, who has the talent to be the first FCS player selected in the draft -
possibly in the third round - suffers from Crohn's disease.
The disease, which is said to affect about 700,000 Americans, occurs primarily
when the body's immune system attacks the digestive tract and causes
inflammation in the walls of the large or small intestines. During an episode,
it is all but impossible for food to pass through the body and the abdominal
pain can make a person feel like his stomach will explode. There's no telling
how long the attack will last, either.
While there's also no telling how much Alford or even if his playing career
will be affected by the disease, the uncertainty probably means there are
teams struggling to accept the risk that Alford's playing status in the future
could be affected by a Crohn's episode.
Alford's abilities bring fewer questions. At 5-foot-10, 188 pounds, with
sub-4.4-second speed in the 40-yard dash, he offers an ideal mix of speed and
physical play. Having excelled at the Senior Bowl, Alford likes to be up in
press coverage, but he has the fluid hips to turn and run with a receiver. He
also is sound in zone coverage, keeping a receiver within reach.
Alford, from Hammond, La., watched as his older brothers, Fred Booker (New
Orleans Saints, 2005) and Duke Adams (Detroit Lions, 2003-06), played in the
NFL. He would be Southeastern Louisiana's first draft pick since the school
brought back football in 2003.
It's possible Alford will be a steal on Friday's second day of the draft,
offering reward instead of risk. He might never miss time because of Crohn's
Medication and a modified diet often bring Crohn's under control, and surgery
can remove a section of the diseased intestines.
New York Jets quarterback David Garrard and former New England Patriots
offensive tackle Matt Light are examples of players who have excelled in the
NFL despite having Crohn's disease. Both were forced to have surgery,
With other people, Crohn's can be a continual problem. That's why NFL teams
could fear that a third-round pick on Alford is too high. If enough teams do,
Alford could slip to the third and final day of the draft on Saturday.
Alford will be drafted this week. He just might not be drafted as high as
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