MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — There is more about Alonzo Addae than just the No. 4 uniform jersey he wears that reminds you of his cousin, Jahmile Addae, the former West Virginia defensive back who also wore that number and now coaches him in his role as cornerbacks coach.
There’s the matter of the hammer that he carries into action every time he plays.
You need no further proof than a computer and enough time to seek out WVU’s highlights against Eastern Kentucky in the Mountaineers’ opening game last Saturday.
While Alonzo grabbed a share of the national spotlight with the play of the game, a laid-out diving interception that was good enough to be No. 4 on the Saturday night SportsCenter Top Ten plays, that really was not the play of the game.
Instead, it was Addae’s introduction to Mountaineer fans — at least those watching on television in this era of empty stands — after redshirting last year following his transfer in. That was a play that earned him such admiration from the coaching staff that he was named the opening week’s special team’s top performer.
Not that he had much competition, for head coach Neal Brown on Tuesday admitted that special team play was below the standard he wants to set, calling it “the most disappointing part of Saturday.”
Part of the disappointment came because the kick coverage unit gave up a 100-yard kickoff return to Davion Ross following the Mountaineers’ second touchdown, a play that was unsightly but that did no damage because of offsetting penalties.
When WVU kicked again, Addae came flying down the field and took the air out of Ross’ balloon by viciously cutting his legs out from under him, as if to say “There’ll be no more of that 100-yard return stuff going on in my house!”
While it wasn’t as violent a hit as the one that made Addae famous for his physical play when he nearly decapitated Virginia Tech’s wide receiver Jared Mazzetta in a 2004 loss to the Hokies when he dared venture across the middle to catch a pass in Addae’s territory, it carried the same kind of message to all opponents who will see the film of it.
There are physical resemblances between the two Addaes but what bonds them most in the aggressive style with which they approach the game, an aggressive style that Jahmile has carried over into his coaching from his playing days.
You might note that last year, also wearing No. 4, Addae was the coach of Josh Norwood, who was the sledgehammer in the Mountaineer secondary, dealing out hits very similar to the one Addae had put on the Virginia Tech receiver Mazzetta.
It goes to show that Addae was not just blowing smoke when he arrived to join Neal Brown’s staff and proclaimed:
“If we don’t do anything else at corner, we are going to strike people.”
Norwood did and now his successor also has shown his willingness to throw make throwback plays to an era when football was played with a far more jagged edge than they allow it to be today.
Addae’s Saturday wasn’t just defined by those two plays, the interception and the special teams tackle.
Not at all.
Pro Football Focus, which grades out every player from every game for a number of schools, had Addae as the highest graded defensive back in the country at 93.2 in college football’s Week 2, edging out Texas DB Josh Thompson, who scored 92.3.
Alonzo Addae’s journey to West Virginia is an interesting one, to say the least.
Locker rooms are not filled with players who prepped in Canada, nor are Power 5 teams overrun with transfers from the University of New Hampshire.
Addae has found success wherever he has played. He grew up in Toronto where he played at St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary School and was dominant with 10 interceptions and 43 tackles on defense to go with 14 touchdown receptions on offense.
Rather than heading to college right away, he headed to New Jersey to play at the historic private Peddie School.
There was little falloff there even though there was a step up in competition, as he scored 12 touchdowns while picking off four passes and was named to the All-MAPL first team and the NJ.com All-Prep first team.
Addae decided to play at New Hampshire, a FCS school in the Colonial Athletic Conference, where he redshirted his first year, As a redshirt freshman he played in 13 of 14 games, including all three NCAA playoff games, recording 36 tackles, breaking up six passes and forcing two fumbles while recovering one.
His all-out style was embraced by the coaching staff and as a sophomore he again was a ballhawk, breaking up four passes and having his best game against Colorado, a sign that he could play at the Power 5 level.
His transfer to WVU forced him to sit out a second year, but he made the most of it as he got himself acquainted with Neal Brown’s style of coaching and play and won himself a starting job right out of the chute.
“It was definitely difficult,” he said after the opener of having to sit out last year, “but at the same time I just trusted the process “The coaches put me in a situation where I was still growing my skills. It was hard, but today I was able to put myself out there and just let my emotions run. I was speechless going out there in a Mountaineer uniform. I’m thankful.”