John Alt spent 13 seasons as a left tackle with the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. But whenever he mowed the lawn of his Minnesota home, Alt knew his son Mark's future might not be in football.

John Alt spent 13 seasons as a left tackle with the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. But whenever he mowed the lawn of his Minnesota home, Alt knew his son Mark's future might not be in football.

"He was always outside on the Rollerblades, always shooting around," Alt said. "We had pucks all over the yard. The lawnmower chewed up a thousand pucks over the course of his upbringing. Other kids, they play video games or whatever. He had no interest in that. He was always outside."

Mark Alt arrived in Tampa, Fla., this week as a 20-year-old sophomore defenseman for Minnesota, vying for college hockey's ultimate prize in the NCAA Frozen Four. Choosing hockey over his father's sport wasn't easy, but the Gophers' success this season has validated his choice to follow the game he loves.

"Hockey was just my deal, and when it came down to making a decision, I just knew where my passion was," said Alt, who is 6 feet 3, 202 pounds and was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round two years ago.

Even after he had committed to take the ice for the Gophers, football made a tempting push. He quarterbacked his high-school team in St. Paul to a state championship his senior year. He earned a scholarship offer from Iowa.

Hockey won out.

Alt has shown progress this season, establishing himself as a physical defender and a capable scorer, totaling five goals and 17 assists in 42 games.

Alt's hockey experience was limited in high school because of a collarbone injury, so he said it took him a year to get comfortable with the college game, and that familiarity has led to this season's success.

"Coming to college, the game was really fast for me, so last year was a big transition year for me, just trying to keep up," he said. "This year, I feel like every game, things slow down a little more and more, so I can make plays and be more productive."

The Hurricanes still have Alt's draft rights, and he expects to return for another season with Minnesota, with a timetable to consider turning pro after his junior season. His father enjoys seeing parallels on the ice between his son's role as a defenseman and his old job as an NFL left tackle.

"He's protecting the net. You're backpedaling while someone else is going forward it's very similar to playing offensive line," his father said. "That's how I watch it. I can put myself in position for what he's trying to accomplish. And much like an offensive lineman, if your name isn't mentioned, you did your job."