Alonzo Highsmith: In Football, “You Rely on Everybody, Every Single Play"
Welcome to "Why We Play," a series of discussions with current players and NFL Legends about their youth football experience and why they play the game.
Alonzo Highsmith has made a career of football.
The third overall pick of the 1987 NFL Draft by the then Houston Oilers, Highsmith has spent the last nine years as an executive for the Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns and currently the Seattle Seahawks.
It all started on the youth football fields in Montreal, Canada. Highsmith's youth football team went undefeated five straight years and one year went unscored upon.
“I don’t care who you are or who you play: you play 10 games and nobody scores a point on you, that’s pretty good,’’ he said.
Highsmith learned more than wins and losses and the Xs and Os of football as a youth. Like so many others, he learned what it was like to be part of a team — in his case, a very good team.
“In football you can’t pick and choose,’’ he said. “You rely on everybody, every single play. It’s the ultimate team sport. That’s why more leaders come out of football. That’s why football is what it is. It takes so many people to be successful.’’
Alonzo’s father, Walter, played in both the NFL and CFL and also coached in the CFL. And ultimately it was the Highsmith family's move to Florida that helped jumpstart Alonzo's career.
“We visited Miami a lot,’’ said Highsmith, who moved from Montreal to Miami in 10th grade. “I saw a lot of Pop Warner Football (in Miami) and realized why the state of Florida was so good in football. It’s a breeding ground, those kids are brought up to play football.’’
Highsmith was a star on defense in high school at Christopher Columbus High School and helped his team to a state title.
At the University of Miami, he was converted to running back by ‘Canes head coach Howard Schnellenberger. And Jimmy Johnson, who took over at “The U’’ Highsmith’s sophomore year, kept him in the backfield and featured him even more.
Highsmith got the accolades and helped his team to the 1983 national title. He was the No. 3 pick in the 1987 draft and had a six-year playing career in the NFL. He even had a good boxing career (27-1-2 record) after his NFL days ended.
Highsmith returned to the NFL as an executive in 2012. He said his career on the gridiron and in the front office has shown him that football success comes from team effort.
“Most great football players careers are built on the back of players you never heard of,’’ he said. “One thing you can’t take away from football is the maturation and team concept at a young age.
“When I think of football I think of the Marines, I think of teamwork, counting on my brothers to have my back, everyone it takes to be successful for a team to be successful. And I’ve been fortunate to be part of successful programs, in high school, in college and on the professional level.’’
Highsmith still keeps in touch with a lot of his teammates on all three levels.
“When we talk, we don’t just talk about the success we had,’’ he said. “We talk about the journey, the work ethic, and what it took to achieve that success.’’
Photo Credit: AP Photo/DGB
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