Pass the ball, the football

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:51 AM ET

Charles Alston was a two-sport man his first year at Bowie State University.

However, the 26-year-old Alston won't need to dust off his basketball moves when he attempts to crack the Edmonton Eskimos' starting lineup later this month.

The six-foot-six import defensive end is still the only athlete in NCAA history to play in a football and basketball game the same day.

MONEY OVERSEAS

On the hardwood, Alston was no slouch.

"I had a coach in junior college that told me I could have probably gone ove seas and made some pretty good money playing basketball," offered Alston from Coffeyville, Kansas, where he's currently employed at Amazon.com's distribution centre.

"Actually, some guys were looking at me when I was in junior college. But I kind of liked football and wanted to see how far it would take me.

"I played basketball most of my life. I picked up football around my junior year of high school and just fell in love with it."

Alston went into the NCAA record book on Nov. 17, 2001.

After recording four tackles and a sack in the Bulldogs' season finale over Cheyney University, Alston drove 125 miles from Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C., for Bowie's basketball game versus the University of the District of Columbia.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks on the New York Trade Center towers and Pentagon forced postponement of Bowie's football game and opened the door for Alston's historic feat.

His basketball jersey, football pants and cleats are now on display at the NCAA Football Hall of Fame.

"I'm not going to say it won't happen again," said Alston, who still laments the loss of his cleats. "But I hope it doesn't happen under the circumstances I had to do it under.

"I would like for somebody to just have it scheduled that way for them. When it happened, I was both happy and sad because of the situation."

In addition to Alston, the Esks announced the signing of defensive end Ja'Warren Blair yesterday. Blair, 23, stands six-foot-six and weighs 295 pounds.

RELEASED DURING CAMP

An East Carolina product, Blair signed with Cincinnati as a undrafted free agent in '03 but was released during training camp.

Ironically, Blair and Alston lined up for NFL Europe's Amsterdam Admirals last season. The two also share the same agent.

"I'm glad he's going to get a chance to play more football, especially with me," Alston said of Blair. "He's a lot bigger than I am. I've cut down some of my weight. I'm probably about 265 or 270. I've been trying to trim up a little bit and be a little quicker."

Scouted by Dallas owner Jerry Jones and later signed by the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in '03, Alston picked up a $25,000 bonus for signing with Dallas.

"I think (Jones) saw me play in an all-star game down in Corpus Christi and he saw some things he liked," offered the long, lean pass rusher. "Unfortunately, things didn't work out. But that's the business I chose."

A late cut by Dallas that fall, Alston added a couple of stints on Atlanta and Tampa Bay's practice rosters as well as a tour of duty in Europe to his professional resume before turning to the CFL.

Three-down football could be Alston's ticket back to the NFL, or a way to earn a tidy living north of the border.

"I'm on a world tour right now," Alston chuckled. "I played in Europe and bounced around here in the States, so I figure the next stop is Canada.

"I'm kind of getting well cultured."


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