Back on Oct. 11, 2015, as, Robert Alford intercepted Kirk Cousins and ran it into the endzone to give the Falcons an overtime win, his mentor, Ryan Clark, knew all the work they put in together led to that moment.
A retired safety who played more than a decade in the NFL, Clark, a Super Bowl XLIII champion, spent the previous offseason with Alford, helping turn the 27-year-old into one of the league's best No. 2 CBs. They spoke weekly throughout Atlanta's 2015 campaign and, having formed a strong bond, are training again this month to prepare Alford for his contract year.
"All the advice and things I do have to offer him he's going to get, from helping him watch film to helping him understand where he was beat on certain plays, to how he can improve himself, physically,'' Clark, who roomed with Alford's older brother at LSU, told ESPN.com.
According to Alford, Clark has him do a wide range of defensive back drills, focusing on press coverage, backpedaling and cone and ball drills. They lift, too, and do their fair share of conditioning.
And with Alford set to play a lot of nickel back in 2016, Clark is making sure his client is doing important exercises for DBs who play inside, as evident in the video below:
Although Clark hasn't been out of the game long, he's gained a lot of valuable teaching experience since hanging up the cleats. Right now he's the Director of Football Operations at Traction Sports Performance in Baton Rouge, La., and last summer, he interned with the Steelers during training camp, where he worked closely with Pittsburgh's secondary.
In addition to working with the Falcons veteran, Clark is coaching San Diego Charger Dexter McCoil and New York Giant Landon Collins.
Alford hopes that learning from the 2011 Pro Bowler will help him secure a Pro Bowl nomination of his own. If they can make a few small adjustments here and there, that goal can be accomplished in 2016.
"I'm excited about getting an opportunity to work with him," Clark said. "Anytime you get a chance to work with a true friend, somebody you've known a long time, it's exciting."