WYOMISSING, Pa. -- In the Wyomissing (Pa.) season opener, there was Alex Anzalone rumbling toward the end zone. The 6-foot-3, 231-pounder had the ball in hand and defenders in tow. Except the ESPN 150 outside linebacker was not returning a fumble or an interception.
He was returning a kick.
Sure, Anzalone doesn't look the part of a returner. But the Notre Dame commit, who runs a 4.7 in the 40-yard dash, is one of the team's most gifted athletes. And the decision to put him at returner paid immediate dividends as he had 78 return yards and nearly scored on one but was tripped up at the 3-yard line.
"I guess I'm athletic enough to do it," Anzalone said. "I know I can make some moves that can get me into the open field and be a scoring threat."
Anzalone's future is on defense, though, and he is the nation's fifth-ranked outside linebacker. Anzalone will get a chance to showcase his versatility to a national audience in January after he was awarded his game jersey in the latest stop of the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game.
Anzalone committed to Notre Dame in July, despite a strong push for his services by Florida. It was a tough decision as Anzalone's father graduated medical school from Florida and he has several family members that live in the Sunshine State. Still, he can't wait to head South in January for the game.
"I want to have a good time and compete against the best players in the country, and I knew the Under Armour Game is probably the best," he said. "It's more relevant, it's on ESPN and it's in Florida and a lot of my family can see it.
"It doesn't hurt having those theme parks, too," Anzalone said, laughing.
The recruitment of Anzalone can be considered somewhat of a rollercoaster. After making several unofficial visits in the winter, Anzalone committed to Ohio State in mid-April. Shortly after, pictures leaked of a registered sex offender posing in a picture with several Ohio State commitments, including Anzalone.
A few days later, Anzalone decommitted.
"I try to live with no regrets, but the situation could have been handled a little differently," he said. "Coach [Urban] Meyer called me I think once since they were able to call on Sept. 1," Anzalone said Tuesday, "and he just said he understands everything and if any anything ever happens (with Notre Dame) I'd have a home there."
He committed to Notre Dame in July, only to compete at Florida's Friday Night Lights camp later that month. It was not a recruiting trip for Anzalone, though, who took the opportunity to compete against some of the Southeast's best players, thank the
Florida staff for recruiting him and just to get a chance to experience The Swamp.
"I'm not going to be able to play in The Swamp like I wanted to when I was a little kid; Notre Dame is a better fit for me," Anzalone said. "It was a chance and an opportunity to do that."
The No. 63 player in the country, Anzalone is focused on his senior season and Notre Dame now, and he will officially visit the Irish in December. He will then make it to the Under Armour Game, and right after that he will be on Notre Dame's campus again but this time as an early enrollee.
"The bond is special at Notre Dame," he said. "The academics and the degree -- it doesn't get much better than that."