The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

August 24, 2013

Enid’s Alex Lofton uses his skills, dad’s inspiration on the gridiron

ENID, Okla. — He is known simply as “Smooth,” a nickname given to him in his junior season in 2012 by Plainsmen wide receivers coach Shawn Mills.

“It was real easy to see,” Mills said, explaining the moniker he tagged him with that would become Alex Lofton’s new identity within the team.

“His running style was just perfect, it was effortless and for someone to be that fast, you don’t really see that too often,” Mills said. “He’s a natural runner with side-to-side quickness.”

“I run smooth, I guess,” said Lofton. “It looks like I’m striding, but I’m running.”

But to attribute the senior wide receiver-defensive back’s ability to just natural skill, which is abundantly evident, would only tell part of the story.

Lofton has emerged as one of Enid’s top threats this season on a team hoping to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and improve on last season’s 3-7 mark in head coach Steve Chard’s first season.

“I definitely want to be playing in Week 11, or past Week 11 this year,” said Lofton. The prep regular season is 10 weeks before playoffs start. “I don’t want to end up missing the playoffs my senior year.”

Lofton led the team last season by averaging 19.7 yards per reception and had two touchdowns. But he also had a possibly bigger impact on defense as a shut-down corner. He had three picks in 2012, behind only team-leader Marshawn Mills, who had four.

Lofton admits he likes scoring touchdowns, but embraces his role on defense as well, a role EHS assistant coach Marques Odom, in his first year coaching cornerbacks, sees  considerable upside.

“He’s very smart,” Odom said. “He understands football and is quick and physical. He likes to get up and play man-to-man and get in the receiver’s mind and try to make the receiver figure out what he wants him to do. Instead of letting the receiver play his game, he makes the receiver play Smooth’s game.”

But when pressed, Lofton’s favorite personal moments have to do with offense.

“I remember at Guthrie (last season) running a post route and Chance (Pryor) threw to me and I caught it. I let up and the (defender) just got me and almost made me fall and I ended up scoring a touchdown. That was a big moment for me. I like scoring touchdowns.”

Lofton certainly appears to have the family lineage for a successful football career.

Those familiar with football in Oklahoma will instantly recognize the Lofton name.

Alex’s older brother, Curtis, played football at Kingfisher, went on to have a solid career at the University of Oklahoma and was a second-round NFL draft choice in 2008 by Atlanta and is considered one of the top linebackers in the game. Curtis currently plays for the New Orleans Saints.

But, Alex hardly knew older brother Curtis, who is nine years his senior.

“I really don’t know him,” Alex said. “My dad and his dad are the same, but we have different moms, so I didn’t get to see him until he started playing at OU.”

In fact, Alex did not meet older brother Curtis until 2007 when Curtis spoke at an event at the Cherokee Strip Conference Center in Enid.

“That’s the first time I met him in person. I’ve just seen him a couple times.”

But while older brother Curtis was out of the picture, Curtis Sr. — Alex’s and Curtis’ father — has been a steadying influence upon Alex.

“I have a really close relationship with him,” said Lofton, who lives with his mom and dad. “He played high school football and Division II college and in the Canadian League (CFL). He played corner. I want to be like him.”

His dad keeps him motivated and has been a bit of a personal trainer, too.

“If I’m sitting on the couch, watching TV or something, he will come up to me and give me confidence and talk to me about football. He will give me techniques so I can get better.

“He will come to the games and he will tell me some ways I can get better. He’ll coach me up. We have a weight vest at home and he’ll tell me to go put that on and jog a couple of blocks to get stronger.”

But his dad also inspires Lofton in a much more personal way.

“He was diagnosed with colon cancer a few years back, but has been fighting it,” Lofton said as the enthusiasm and respect for his dad seemed to almost jump through his words as he spoke.

His father’s cancer has had periods of remission.

“I don’t think he has it any more, but it comes back,” Lofton said. “He used to have to go every Thursday for chemotherapy. I don’t think he gets it (the chemotherapy) any more because I haven’t seen him wearing that little tube that goes into his chest,” Lofton said, referring to the chemo port.

“Every day I see him and he is fighting it off. He inspires me a lot. When I would see him at home with the tube in his chest, I would feel bad for him and I want to do something better for him so he can say ‘that’s my son,’ and forget about that other stuff.”

Lofton, who has 4.5 speed and finished second in the state this past spring in the 400 meters with a time of 49.06 (former EHS teammate Seth Handley was third), appears to be on the fast track in making his dad proud.

He said he has dreamed since playing football in third-grade of playing in the NFL.

“I want to go D1 (college) and to the NFL, that’s one of my biggest dreams,” he said.

Both coaches Mills and Odom believe Lofton does have a football future.

“Definitely,” said Odom. “He has to keep working. He can play both sides of the ball, and because he’s a smart athlete, he will be playing at the next level.”

“He’s on the radar now,” Mills said, who added he is working with Lofton on shorter routes as other teams are aware of his deep threat. “People know him and guys are going to play off him, rolling the safety to his side.”

Lofton said he enjoys the extra attention from defenders.

“Doesn’t scare me at all,” he said. “I take it as a challenge. A big challenge.”

He also feels more comfortable this year in the second year of Chard’s system.

“I know all the plays now. I can recognize routes quickly,” he said.

Lofton said he has patterned his play at wide receiver after former EHS standout Mitchell Foote, who set multiple records and is now at Division II Emporia State, and his defensive style after former Plainsman Kiandre Glasgow.

But the person he most admires is in the stands each week, no matter the circumstance.

“Some of the games when it was real cold out, he had to wear a coat with a blanket because he could catch pneumonia due to the chemo,” Lofton said regarding his dad attending games.

“Every time I play, I put my dad’s name on my wrist when I tape up, so it’s like I’m playing for him. If he sees me playing hard, he’ll be happy about that.”

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