SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame running backs coach Tony Alford missed a week of practice earlier this month after his younger brother, Aaron, passed away in Utah, where he coached football at Park City High School.
Alford returned to South Bend this week and said he was overwhelmed by the response from those both inside and outside the Notre Dame football program.
"People talk about the Notre Dame family a lot, but you don’t find out about it until you go through something hard personally," Alford said. "The outpouring of support from the Notre Dame family from people who didn’t personally know me was out of this world. This place is special. … I'm eternally grateful for that and the support of the Notre Dame community."
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Aaron Alford had a stint coaching at Utah between 2007 and 2010, and was recently hired as Park City's athletic director. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham and his staff paid tribute to Alford, while UNLV coach Bobby Hauck left his team to attend Alford's memorial service.
Tony Alford said Aaron was his best friend, and added he misses him every day.
"My mom and dad raised us a certain way, and I know my brother would say 'hey, get your tail back to work,' " Alford said. "It is what it is. It doesn't mean I don't think about him all the time. I miss him. I picked the phone up the past week three times already and tried to reach out to him, and then I kinda catch myself."
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With Notre Dame's season opener just over a week away, Tony Alford is back to concentrating on football. He brought up a phrase -- "adversity introduces a man to himself" -- and while his focus may be on Temple, he still often reflects on the kind of person his brother was.
"He had a brand. His brand was to help people," Alford said. "And hopefully that brand, that legacy will continue on through the people that he knows moving forward."