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John Alt: Tecmo’s Strongest Man

Tecmo fans are familiar with The Nigerian Nightmare. What about the German Tank[1]? Give Christian Okoye a few pixels of open field and it’s a quick trip to popcorn city. But even Okoye can’t make popcorn in a cold pan. For Kansas City, it’s Left Tackle John Alt, born in Stuttgart, Germany, who preheats the popcorn.

Tecmo Super Bowl John Alt

With 81 Hitting Power, John Alt is Tecmo’s Strongest Lineman. Outside a handful of power running backs, whose strength stats are inflated to balance gameplay, Alt is TSB’s strongest player, period. Lawrence Taylor, for all his speed and tenacity, has only 75 HP. Reggie White? Alt can handle “the Reverend” with one hand tied behind his back. John Alt is an irresistible force against TSB’s otherwise unstoppable defenders. If it wasn’t for his criminally low 19 Maximum Speed (more on that later), Alt would be an 8-bit god.

Though born in Germany, John Alt grew up in Columbia Heights, Minnesota. In High School, Alt garnered All-State honors as a Tight End and Punter/Kicker[2]. Highly-recruited, Alt decided to play TE for the University of Iowa. He caught only one pass his freshman season for a grand total of 13 yards. The summer before his sophomore season, Alt bulked up from 230 to 270 pounds. It quickly became clear John was better suited to moving defenders than moving the chains. Alt found his home on the interior line, playing blindside tackle. In 1983, Alt earned All-Big Ten and Second Team All-America honors for his offensive line play.

How intimidating was John Alt? Before the 1982 Peach Bowl, a would-be robber confronted John on the streets of Atlanta, gun in hand. Although details are sparse, apparently the assailant saw the 6-foot-7, 275-pound Alt and thought better of his decision. According to Iowa Coach Hayden Fry, “There wasn’t a fight or anything.[3]

Kansas City selected John Alt with the 21st overall pick of the the 1984 NFL Draft. KC, after selecting DT Bill Maas at 5, traded back into the first round by shipping All Pro CB Gary Green to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for LA’s 21st and 134th picks[4]. Alt was the third offensive tackle selected in 1984, after Dean Steinkuhler (Houston, No.2 overall) and TSB legend Ron Solt (Indianapolis, No.19 overall). He outshone both.

It’s interesting that Ron Solt and John Alt went so closely together in the NFL Draft. Solt, as we know, jumped out of the gate swinging. He was named to the AP’s All-Rookie team in 1984. He earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in 1987. Alt, on the other hand, stumbled. He shuffled around KC’s offensive line his rookie season. Knee and back injuries hindered his performance. Some threw around the “b” word when talking about John Alt: “Bust.”

Except where Solt began to fizzle out, John Alt was just getting started.

After the 1985-86 NFL season, John opted for surgery to fix his back. Reporters, certain he’d miss the entire ‘86 season, grumbled over another futile season for the first round pick. They’d traded an All-Pro CB to get Alt and received only injuries in return. John, though, knew better. Possessing a tenacious work ethic, Alt rehabbed with a mission and returned by week 10. A three game win streak to close the season, including victories against the Broncos and Raiders, helped the Chiefs secure a slot in the AFC playoffs.

In 1987, with Alt clearing paths for a rookie RB named Christian Okoye, KC’s total rushing jumped from 1,400 to 1,800 yards. By 1989, that number ballooned to over 2,200. Opponents threw their best defenders against Alt, only to see them flattened to earth.

In September of 1990, Alt’s Chiefs traveled to Minnesota for a game against his hometown Vikings. One of the big stories that week was Minnesota signing (now Hall of Fame) defensive end Chris Doleman to a 1-year, $1.6 Million dollar contract. With 36 members of Alt’s family in the stands and hundreds more watching across Minnesota, he squared off against Doleman snap after snap after snap. Minnesota’s highly-touted (and highly-paid) defender finished the game with 1 tackle, zero pressures, zero sacks, zero deflections and zero forced fumbles.

Alt attributed his success against Doleman to film study and “a lot of prayers.” Certainly his hulking frame and unstoppable work ethic didn’t hurt.

Image Courtesy of the Trading Card Database

In fact, John Alt was so integral to Kansas City’s offense that he may be responsible for Joe Montana’s retirement.

In an attempt to finally make the Super Bowl, KC brought in Hall of Fame QB Joe Montana prior to the 1994 season. KC coach Marty Schottenheimer figured even an aging Montana could shine behind his Pro-Bowl Left Tackle. What Schottenheimer didn’t know was John Alt’s surgically repaired back wouldn’t make it through the 1994 season. Alt struggled through 14 of Kansas City’s 17 games. With Alt diminished, Joe Montana became a sitting duck. Buffalo LB Bruce Smith nearly took off Montana’s head in a week 9 game against the Bills.

“The loss of John Alt…was a major setback,” Schottenheimer said. “I changed [our] pass protection [to keep Joe Montana from getting] the devil knocked out of him.[5]

KC finished the season 9-7 and lost yet again in the opening round of the playoffs. Joe Montana, his body beaten, retired.

Alt returned to form in 1995. Even without Montana, KC went 13-3 and won the AFC West. A disastrous performance from KC placekicker Lin Elliott in the Divisional Playoff, however, handed the underdog Colts a 10-7 win. Who knows what Joe Montana could have done with a healthy John Alt protecting his blindside.

Nagged by lingering neck, back and knee injuries, John Alt hung up his cleats for good in July of 1997.  Coach Schottenheimer was effusive at Alt’s press conference:

“As a coach, it’s very, very important that you can rely on an individual’s ability to play to a certain level all the time… I have never been around a player who I believe was more committed…than John Alt. He was the standard bearer for [Kansas City] football.[6]

Hall of Fame LB Derrick Thomas, speaking after Schottenheimer, offered the highest praise he could:

“In eight seasons I’ve faced almost every tackle in the National Football League, and I’ve beaten them all,” Thomas said. “But in eight years of practice and scrimmage, I can only remember beating John Alt once. I think that is the highest compliment I can pay John.”

TSB backs up Thomas’ praise. Altering the game data to put an All-Alt KC Offensive Line vs. an All-Thomas Defense (in this case, the Broncos) shows the German-born Tackle buying insane pocket time for his QB even against an invading DT army.

DT John Alt
Alt buys his QB over 10 (10!) seconds against an army of DTs

Why exactly TSB programmers gave John 19 Max Speed is a mystery. Despite lingering back and knee injuries, Alt started every game between 1989 and 1993. There are exactly zero news articles (in English, anyhow) citing Alt’s slowness. On the contrary, Alt was a Defensive End and Tight End through high school and college; we know he was faster than the average lineman. We can only assume TSB programmers heard about his injuries, his back surgery, and guessed Alt must have the foot speed of a drowsy sloth.

Even with his criminally low foot speed, Kansas City’s John Alt manages to be one of the better offensive linemen in Tecmo Super Bowl. His Herculean strength cuts double-wide lanes for the Nigerian Nightmare. Tecmo Super Bowl manages to catch John Alt at his absolute best: a gifted man of supreme ethic, pushing around elite athletes like children’s toys.

 


NOTES:

[1] I will readily admit this is a terrible nickname. Alt wasn’t a nickname kind of guy and this is the best I could come up with.
[2] Yes, you read that correctly, TSB’s most BA OL player started as a kicker.
[3] Philadelphia Inquirer; Philadelphia, Pa. 09 Jan 1983: E.2.
[4] This turned out to be a pretty good deal for KC; though Green continued at a high level, he played only two more seasons before retiring.
[5] “Pro Bono.” Whitlock, Jason. The Sporting News; St. Louis. Nov 6, 1995: 30.
[6] “Alt Retires.” Doug Tucker, Associated Press. 22 July 1997.

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Keith Good

Keith Good is a future Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and 8-bit game geek. A perpetual optimist, he convinces himself every September that this could finally be the Cleveland Browns' year. He was once told to eff off by one of the Tecmo Browns. You can check out his other work at www.keithisgood.com and follow him on twitter @keithisgood.

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