Alex Kube knows the odds are not in his favor. But he continues to work toward his dream of reaching the NFL.
He played at a minicamp last summer with the Minnesota Vikings but did not make the roster. So, after working on his speed and agility to prove he can make it as an NFL defensive back, the former Cary-Grove and Northern Illinois linebacker signed with the Arena Football League’s Chicago Rush on Monday,
“I still feel like I was a player who was missed (by NFL scouts),” Kube said Tuesday. “[The Rush] know they’re going to get everything out of me because they know my ultimate goal to play in the National Football League.
“But that’s not going to get done unless I play very, very well here.”
Even if Kube earns a job with the Rush, making the jump to the NFL is difficult. Last year, 34 former AFL players were invited to NFL training camps, according to an AFL spokesman. Seven earned NFL roster spots while another seven were signed to practice squads.
AFL success stories like that of former Super Bowl champion and NFL MVP Kurt Warner are uncommon. For the few AFL players who go on to compete on Sundays, the number of those who don’t is much greater, making mental toughness and perseverance a critical part of the journey.
Kube earned freshman All-American honors as a safety at NIU before being moved to linebacker by former coach Jerry Kill.
He led the Huskies with 81 tackles his senior year, finishing at 228 pounds. He has trimmed down to 213 and spent the past two years working to keep his pro football hopes alive, shifting back to defensive back and “jack back,” a hybrid linebacker position that, in the AFL, cannot rush the passer or drop back in coverage, but that instead plays underneath.
Kube’s versatility is among the reasons, he believes, why the Rush signed him. He’s hoping with a solid camp he can join the ranks of AFL players who graduate to the game’s top level. It’s a progression Rush officials understand players who sign with the team are looking to make.
“We want Chicago to be the place where players can come in and use the AFL as a gateway to the NFL,” Rush Director of Player Personnel Scott Bailey said in a Yahoo! Sports story last year. “The talent in the AFL, in my opinion, is as high as it’s ever been. It is a league designed for young talent, and I think we will see more and more AFL players signing NFL contracts in the future.”
In the past, scouts have questioned his speed. Kube said he believes they are misinformed. At Northwestern’s pro day last year, Kube ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash and a 6.5 in the three-cone drill, times that would have put him among the top performers at this year’s NFL Combine.
Kube said he was invited to participate in a regional combine Sunday, but declined, insisting he didn’t want to waste his time only to be told scouts needed more film on him. With the Rush, he hopes to build on what he showed at safety as an NIU redshirt freshman.
The Rush open the season March 23 against the Iowa Barnstormers, but will travel to San Jose to open their preseason schedule Thursday. Kube hopes to use training camp and the exhibition schedule to get work at defensive back. He said he’s playing with some anger, refusing to accept the scouting report that’s been written about him.
For Kube, who co-founded Elite 7 training center in Lake Barrington, making the Rush roster would be a big first step. But he hopes it won’t be his last.
“I’m happy that I’m here, but I’m not satisfied. I’m not content at all,” Kube said. “Obviously, I’ve still got a week and a half left of (training) camp, I’ve still got to make the team and I still have to compete my tail end off, but I’ve got a lot of incentive to do that and there’s no other way for me to go about than to go as hard as I can every single play.”