Rushing to Excellence

By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)

Running back playing football
Tony Alford racks up the yards versus rival Wyoming.

Our alumni hold special memories of their time on campus. What Ohio State assistant head coach and running-back coach Tony Alford (B.A., ’92) remembers most fondly are the relationships he developed with people on campus and the roles those individuals played in his life. He has gone on to be an outstanding coach who helps the young men on his teams not only be better players but also better men.

coach congratulates player on football field
Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford congratulates J.K. Dobbins after he scored a touchdown in 2019. Photo: Joshua A. Bickel/Dispatch

After his family moved from Ohio to Colorado Springs in 1986, Alford became an all-state football player at Doherty High School. He considered an offer from Syracuse but accepted CSU’s offer, playing for the Rams from 1987 to 1990. He was named first team all-WAC and honorable mention All American by USA Today and was a nominee for the Doak Walker Award. He gained 1,035 yards his junior year, including rushing for 310 yards in a game against Utah, which set a conference record that stood for 24 years. His senior year, he helped CSU to a 9-4 record and its first bowl game appearance in 42 years.

Alford was signed by the Denver Broncos, then later played in the World League. His coaching career began in 1993 when he volunteered at Fort Collins High School. The following year, he taught and coached at Lake Wales High School in central Florida. Next, he took a coaching job at Mount Union College, a powerhouse Division 3 school in Alliance, Ohio. Then he coached at Kent State University, where his father, Robert, had been an All-American. The next four years, Alford coached at Iowa State, then in 2001 he coached with Rick Neuheisel at the University of Washington, followed by coaching positions back at Iowa State and then Louisville, followed by Notre Dame, where he spent six seasons, including one in which the Fighting Irish played in the national championship game.

Alford and his family enjoying the scenery on a beautiful day.

Alford now is in his sixth season at Ohio State. He coached 1,000-yard rushers in each of his first five seasons, including J.K. Dobbins, who was a first team All-American and the first Buckeye to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season. Alford’s other coaching accomplishments include being named a 2015 Rivals.com Top 25 Recruiter and a finalist for 247Sports’ 2011 National Recruiter of the Year.

In his role as coach, Alford talks to his players not only about football but also about being a good human being: “It costs nothing to be kind to someone.” He tells them to use their public role for good, to “leverage your influence; we have the opportunity to influence others.”

When he is not coaching, Alford “loves to play golf,” despite claiming, “I stink at it.”  He and wife Trina, a CSU alumna, also spend time at events in which their sons participate. Rylan, 19, is a student at Ohio Wesleyan, where he plays football. Kyler, 15, is active in the arts and particularly excels at dance. Braydon, 13, is focused on football.

Alford with his mother, Gloria

Alford fondly remembers his late brother Aaron (B.S., ’97) when talking about CSU. Among his favorite memories from his own time as a Ram are the relationships he built with his teammates and impactful campus employees, including long-time Athletic Department employees Doug Max (B.S., ’75) and Tom Ehlers (B.S., ’85), the late Boyd Grant (B.S., ’57; M.Ed., ’62), former men’s basketball coach, and Blanche Hughes (M.E.D., ’84; Ph.D., ’95), current vice president for student affairs. He also remembers people in the community who had a positive impact on his life. When he talks about his experience as a Ram, some of Alford’s words are wonderful advice for current and future students: “Immerse yourself in Colorado State; it will take you in. It can be life changing. I have so much respect for that community.” Tony Alford is a stalwart Ram and a wonderful human being.