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A perfect season in many ways

By SCOTT PURKS

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 19, 2000


TAMPA -- A lot of people thought Mike Alstott was the stereotypical high school "moose," a big, rumbling, kid who did nothing more than mow down defenders.

Why think differently?

In his junior year at Joliet (Ill.) Catholic High in 1990, Alstott weighed 200 pounds, got about 20 carries a game and rushed for more than 1,800 yards -- much of them involving straight-ahead collisions.

"His thighs took a beating like you wouldn't believe," said Bob Stone, Joliet Catholic's coach at the time. "We were looking at film through the playoffs that year, and we said, "Look, he can barely lift his legs because he's so beaten up.' But he was tough, and he wanted the ball. And he just kept going."

He ended up carrying Joliet through a 13-0 season and into the Illinois state final against Genesco.

The championship game went back and forth. Late in the last quarter, Joliet trailed 20-13 but was driving deep into Genesco territory. With less than two minutes remaining, Alstott scored on a short blast play, and his team trailed by one.

In the celebration, Stone suddenly decided Joliet Catholic would go for a two-point conversion.

Joliet ran onto the field, and Stone said, "Everybody in the place knew Alstott was getting the ball."

And he did. The twist was that when Genesco's defense attacked Alstott, he lofted a pass to an open teammate in the end zone.

Joliet won the state title 21-20.

"See, I knew Mike could throw the ball," Stone said. "I knew he wasn't a one-dimensional player. He had a nice arm and good hands, and he worked real hard. And you know it says a lot when your best player works as hard as he did. He just had so many good things going for him."

Despite all that, the top-rated Division I colleges weren't in hot pursuit of Alstott. He got interest from Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Purdue, but he didn't get many inquiries from perennially higher-rated teams such as Tennessee, Nebraska or Michigan.

Alstott ended up at Purdue, and though the Boilermakers didn't win too much, he kept working.

In 1996 he was drafted in the second round by the Bucs, and the past three years he has made the Pro Bowl on the merits of being a big, punishing "versatile" back.

Q: Mike, How did you see your life unfolding as you were growing up?

A: I saw what I see now. I always had a vision of being a professional football player. I've always thought I could make it here. And I just had to work hard. With the success I had in eight years of pee-wee football and then into high school, I always thought that if I just kept working that things would work out."

Q: How does that undefeated season in high school rank in your life?

A: It's right up there with the best things I've ever been a part of. Honestly, that high school state championship will always mean so much to me. High school was a step that I had to take to get here, and I wouldn't want to change a thing about it.

SUPER BOWL XXIV

Jan. 28, 1990

New Orleans

49ers 55, Broncos 10

MVP: Joe Montana, 49ers quarterback (22-of-29 for 297 yards and game-record five touchdowns).

IN THE NEWS: Jan. 22: Yugoslav Communists end their 45-year monopoly of power. Feb. 7: Soviet Communists relinquish sole power. Feb. 11: South Africa frees black activist Nelson Mandela, who had been imprisoned for 271/2 years. July 6: The Western Alliance ends the Cold War and proposes joint action with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Aug. 2-on: Iraqi troops invade Kuwait and seize petroleum reserves, setting off the Persian Gulf War. Oct. 3: East and West Germany reunite.

BEST PICTURE OSCAR: Driving Miss Daisy

MUSIC OF THE MOMENT: No Fences/Garth Brooks

EVERYBODY'S WATCHING: The Simpsons

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