Chargers draft pick Joe Alt following in his father's NFL footsteps

They were both first-round picks, this father and son, but the boy now will forever hold an advantage over the old man.

Joe Alt was taken fifth overall by the Chargers on Thursday, four decades after John went 21st overall to the Kansas City Chiefs.

“We’re a little competitive in our family,” John said, smiling. “So that will be one of the ‘gotchas,’ I’m sure.”

The Chargers introduced their latest first-rounder Friday afternoon at their training facility in Costa Mesa, Joe Alt explaining that he felt gratitude and “straight excitement” for the opportunity before him.

Listed by the NFL at 6-foot-9, 321 pounds, he’s expected to add a significant presence for the Chargers at right tackle on offense.

The addition of Alt marked another step in coach Jim Harbaugh’s expressed desire to transform the Chargers into a more powerful, line-of-scrimmage force.

Alt, 21, sounded ready for the assignment when he was asked what he liked best about playing offensive line.

“Being able to hit someone every single play,” he answered. “You don’t have a play off. You’re going to be throwing your head in there whether it’s a pass or a run.”

As a Charger, Alt said he would wear No. 76, the same number he had at Notre Dame and the one his father wore for 13 years as an offensive tackle for the Chiefs beginning in 1984.

John Alt, listed at 6-8, 298 pounds, was a two-time Pro Bowl player who started 149 NFL games after coming out of the University of Iowa.

Both Alts reached the pros in part because of the athleticism they possessed inside their large frames.

Explaining that he “might have been a little better athlete,” John said he ran a 4.96-second 40-yard dash in the pre-draft process compared to 5.05 for his son. He also said his vertical jump was eight inches superior.

“We’ve been competing a little bit,” John said, smiling again. “You know how is it. You remember things the way you want them sometimes.”

Alt was in the second grade when his father began coaching him, a tutelage that continued through Alt’s time at Totino-Grace High School, near Minneapolis.

Knowing his son had a similar body type, John said he always figured Alt was destined to play offensive line. But for much of the time he was growing up, Alt was a quarterback before moving to tight end for his junior year of high school.

“I just wanted to give him a chance to play some other positions and learn the game,” John said. “I think that’s a great experience for anybody.”

Said Alt of his dad: “He was there. He allowed me to really learn what football was and [gain] an appreciation for the game and what it did for me and my family.”

All along, the two worked on offensive line-type drills, John emphasizing footwork and agility, particularly after Alt experienced a five-inch growth spurt, reaching 6-7 midway through high school.

John said he realized that if his son could maintain his coordination “through that period of growth, he’d come out the other end with what he wanted.”

Still, Alt was not highly recruited, with Iowa and Minnesota being the only Big Ten schools to pursue him. But the idea of reaching the NFL remained a constant driving influence, Alt explained.

“Football’s all I can remember growing up,” he said. “Walking into the basement, my dad’s jersey was hung up at the bottom of the steps. It was a dream for me for my entire life.”

Alt’s brother, Mark, is a professional hockey player and spent a brief time with the Kings in 2020-21. Alt said he gave up hockey in the second grade because “I got a little heavy for it.”

Now, he finds himself as a weighty addition in the rebuilding of the Chargers, a team Harbaugh and his assistants have touted as an ideal destination for offensive linemen.

“Being wanted is one of the best feelings in the world,” Alt said. “Being [at] a position that the coaches and people feel matters just makes you want to do it that much more and do it for them because they care so much about it.”

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