Recruited to play football for Iowa, Alt chose Gophers hockey

Alt's father John Alt played football at Iowa.
October 26, 2011

Mark Alt doesn’t attend the University of Iowa like starting quarterback James Vandenberg and he doesn’t play the same sport.

Two years ago, however, both were a possibility.

Alt was recruited to play quarterback for the Hawkeyes throughout his senior campaign at Cretin-Derham Hall, in which he passed for 1,956 yards and 26 touchdowns. He added six rushing touchdowns that year.

Alt led the Raiders to a Class 5A state championship in 2009, but ultimately chose not to accept the scholarship to play football at Iowa.

Instead, he chose to play hockey for the Gophers.   

“If I was going to play football that’s where it was going to be, but when it came down to it, hockey was the sport I wanted to play and that led me to Minnesota,” Alt said. “Growing up in Minnesota and hockey being the sport I wanted to play, there was no question I wanted to be a Gopher.”

Alt’s decision to play hockey at Minnesota was met with disagreement from his father, John Alt, who played football at the University of Iowa.

“We recruited him to play hockey at [Minnesota] at a pretty young age — in 10th grade — but probably his dad was hoping he would play football,” head coach Don Lucia said.

“He kept pushing and pushing and wouldn’t sign the [National Letter of Intent] in the fall and finally he relented in the spring.”

His father, John Alt, said his decision to postpone his signing was in part based on the scholarships Iowa and Minnesota were offering. 

“It was basically down to the Iowa offer [for football] but he had offers at Kansas and Akron too,” John Alt said. “If you go to a Big Ten or a Big Eight school [for football] you’re going to get a full ride, and in both those cases it would have been five years and they would have likely redshirted him.”

John Alt played 13 NFL seasons at left tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1992 and 1993.

“I absolutely pushed football,” John Alt said. “It’s much more of an intense game to me and he was a big factor in every play of the game.

“He went from playing quarterback — he was involved in every single play of the offensive game — to having to decide if he would play hockey … and he would be more of a defensive player.”

John Alt said his son was always more of an offensive hockey player growing up, but eventually transitioned to play defense in high school and college.

Mark Alt was selected with the No. 53 pick by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2010 NHL Draft, but chose to play hockey with the Gophers to further refine his skills, a common choice for young players taken that late in the draft.

Since arriving at Minnesota, the sophomore has found a role on the ice for the Gophers. Mark Alt played in 35 games last season, scoring two goals and tallying eight assists.

This year, Alt has taken more of a leadership role on a youthful back line that consists of no seniors and one junior defenseman. He has four assists through six games this season.

Alt also said he is focusing on sharpening different aspects of his game in 2011-12.

“I think I’m turning into more of a defensive defenseman,” Alt said. “I can be offensive and it’s something I’m working on — patience with the puck at the point, especially. But what I really want to focus on is being a shutdown defenseman in our zone.”

His dad said he attends most of his son’s games and enjoys being at the games, because it gives him the opportunity to isolate Mark Alt directly.

“I know he wanted me to play football pretty bad, but at the same time he knew hockey was the choice for me and he’s been really good about it,” Mark Alt said.

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