There weren’t too many highlights during the second half of the Saskatchewan Roughriders disappointing 2022 season, but returner Mario Alford was one of them.
To help lessen the load for running backs Jamal Morrow and Frankie Hickson in the return game, the Roughriders acquired Alford from the Montreal Alouettes in exchange for a 2023 CFL Draft pick last July.
The move paid off for Saskatchewan as Alford ended the season with four return touchdowns, including the special teams trifecta of returning a punt, a kickoff and a missed field goal for majors.
The 32-year-old received the 2022 Most Outstanding Special Teams Player of the Year for his efforts last season. The Roughriders rewarded him with a brand new contract early in the off-season.
Now entering his second season as a member of the green and white, Alford says his confidence grows with each season, and he still has something to prove in 2023.
“I always been a high confidence guy,” Alford said. “Each year I feel like I’m getting smarter and more aggressive with everything I do.”
The former West Virginia Mountaineer explains that confidence is a requirement when he’s getting to run back a return.
“You just back there all alone, by yourself and all eyes on you, you got to have confidence.”
From 2022, Alford’s favourite return was the missed field goal he ran back against the Toronto Argonauts on July 24 at Mosaic Stadium.
“I kind of set the edge up, and just bait them one way and then went the other one and I just kind of throttled my way through and then I know when I hit it, so it’s really fun to watch man and it’s really fun to do it.”
Mario Alford takes a missed field goal all the way back for a TD as time expires in the first half! 😱
— theScore (@theScore) July 25, 2022
One of the things new offensive coordinator Kelly Jeffrey mentioned when he was named to the position was the team’s desire to find more ways to get Alford the ball this season. The native of Greenville, Georgia, is confident the team will find a way to make that happen.
“They know what I can do.”
The possibilities of Alford inside of the Roughriders offence are endless. He could line up as a receiver, in the backfield, jet-sweeps, end-reverses, and so much more. The multi-purpose threat for Saskatchewan doesn’t want to tip other teams about the offensive plans for the Roughriders have this season.
“They got a good game plan for me going into this season so I’m very excited about it. ”
The sense of urgency has heightened at training camp for the Roughriders, with the team trying to get back into the postseason. Alford brought home some individual hardware in 2022, and this season he wants to accompany the big prize back to Saskatchewan.
“We all have something to prove, we want to do it for this province, for Rider Nation, we just want to win and bring the cup here this year.”