Road to NFL runs through Sweden for Carlstad star
Alpha Jalloh sprints toward the end zone during the Carlstad Crusaders' victory over the London Warriors May 7 in Karlstad. Photo by Hans Cullberg
The road to the NFL has many twists, from college ball to combines to pro days, but Sweden? It is a twist that former Liberty University star Alpha Jalloh never expected to take.
"To be honest it never crossed my mind,” Jalloh said. “I was training for the NFL and our defensive coordinator [Robert Wimberly] tried to be honest with me and told me a lot of scouts are coming to our games but they are interested mainly in other players, and he told me look into other avenues.”
Jalloh went undrafted after graduating from Liberty but says he was determined to pursue his dream of playing professional football. He heard about a scouting website for European teams but says he never really considered playing American football in the epicenter of the football (soccer) world.
“I really wanted to stay in America,” he said. “Then I started looking into it. Not many people can say they live in Europe and play football, so I decided to just go for it.”
The defensive back/wide receiver filled out the scouting forms and uploaded his highlight video. It wasn’t long before Carlstad general manager Robert Sundberg saw Jalloh’s profile and tape.
“He had the type of skills we want,” Sundberg said. “Most of all, he has the right mindset. He is an awesome guy on and off the field and this is what we want. We want our players to be role models not just as players but as people.”
Jalloh said he considered trying to secure a tryout with either a Canadian Football League or Arena League team but changed his mind when a player he knew told him about Europe. “He said they have leagues going right now and that was attractive, because I would have high-level games and be even more ready” for a possible NFL tryout.
Focusing on a dream
Jalloh grew up in Maryland, just outside Washington, DC where he began playing football at an early age. His parents, Binta and Gardian, emigrated from Sierra Leone and Jalloh said his mother embraced their new home, right down to sports. While soccer — football to most of the world —– rules the sports roost in Sierra Leone, Jalloh and his three brothers grew up playing the football they saw on television.
“My brothers got me into it,” he said. “We all played, and my second-oldest brother, Alijah, was really good so I always had a lot to live up to. Everywhere I played when I was younger people would say, 'Oh, you’re Alijah’s brother.'"
While Jalloh’s other brothers, Abdul and Alim, also played, it was Alpha who lived up to his name, becoming a star at Annapolis Area Christian School before moving onto Stevenson University where he played for one season before transferring to Liberty. It was at Liberty that his career blossomed. He started his junior and senior years, was an All Big South selection in 2016 and finished third in the nation in fumble recoveries.
Moving to Liberty also allowed Jalloh to continue his spiritual growth, which he said is the key to any success he enjoys. “I definitely believe God is in control of everything. He is directing my steps and I believe this will open doors for me,” he said.
Jalloh made his debut May 6 when Carlstad took on the London Warriors in the semifinals of the North Europe Football League, a circuit with teams from England, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. Jalloh played running back as well as safety and racked up 193 all-purpose yards, including a team-high 76 yards rushing. He picked up 53 yards the first time he touched the ball as he found a hole and scampered half the field for the opening score of the game.
“I didn’t think I was going to score on the opening drive,” he said. “I am still just getting my feet wet and I still felt a little rusty. I would say that run was coaching because our offensive coordinator Danny Mitchell told me to keep my eyes open, that I would see a hole and that I am fast enough to take it. It all worked out to where we won and I had a decent game, so I’m pleased.”
Jalloh said he is quickly adjusting to life in Sweden’s heartland. “Everyone has been very welcoming. It is very fun and [Karlstad] is a beautiful city.” He said one thing that surprised him is the number of people that don’t drive. “There are so many people riding bikes,” he said. “Some people don’t have driver’s licenses. They just use a bike or the bus so there is kind of a culture difference but it is a fun place to be. I am enjoying it.”
As he adjusts to his life away from the United States and as a professional athlete, Jalloh said he remains focused on his dream.
“My ultimate goal is to play in the NFL,” he said. “I know I have talent and work ethic and once I get a foot in door, I know I will be able to get in.”