The NFL's circle of life was continuing its evolution from one giant left tackle named Alt to the next. John Alt, the father, a 61-year-old with a brand-new right knee and 13 seasons' worth of pro ball-induced discomfort, was easing into TCO Sports Garden in Vadnais Heights. Joe Alt, the son, a 21-year-old with a baby's face and no excessive fat, was on the field finishing a fast-paced, sweat-soaked workout in the final days before he's expected to become a top-10 draft pick.

"He's obviously the goal," said Joe, nodding to his dad. "I'd love to be able to say I filled that man's shoes. I got a ways to go."

After being a star at Totino-Grace High School in Fridley and two-time All-America at Notre Dame, all Joe has left on his to-do list is:

1. Pray for the ideal fit in Thursday night's first round.

2. Play at a high level for more than a decade.

And, oh yeah …

3. Enter that team's Hall of Fame, as John did after the Chiefs made him the 21st overall pick 40 years ago.

"Joe's development is maybe three or four years ahead of where I was," said John, whose body grew in similar spurts from junior high to Columbia Heights High to Iowa to the NFL, where he didn't become a full-time starter until his fourth season. "Physically, he's ahead of me. I had never lifted free weights in my life. … Mentally, he's definitely ahead of me.

"I gave him everything I could possibly give him in my head, in my heart and in my effort. And he's responded. Worked harder than anybody I've seen at any level. He's ready for this. Day 1."

Fingers crossed for Titans

Joe Alt has been working out alongside NFL veterans six days a week for months with Elite Performance Training in Eagan and Vadnais Heights. They start at 7 a.m. in the weight room with Bill Welle, who's trained workout warriors such as former NFL stars Cris Carter and Larry Fitzgerald Jr. They finish with 90 minutes of on-field, offensive-line drills with former Vikings lineman Alex Boone, a candid old-school character with a no-baloney approach that sold the Alts on EPT over more ballyhooed options in California, Texas, Arizona and Florida.

It's become a tight-knit group that includes, among others, Chris Reed, a 31-year-old free agent who spent the past two years with the Vikings; Lewis Kidd, a fellow Totino-Grace grad who spent last year on the Colts' practice squad; and John Michael Schmitz, the former Gophers center and 2023 second-round pick who's entering Year 2 as a starter for the Giants.

This mass of humanity will be among those who gather in Dellwood with the Alts to watch the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night.

"We're all rooting for the Titans at No. 7," Boone said.

Well, not quite everyone. Schmitz's Giants have the sixth pick and need another tackle.

"I'd love to play with Joe," Schmitz said. "Obviously, he's got all the physical tools. But what sets him apart, I think, is his mindset. You might beat Joe, but Joe's not going to stop until he comes back and beats you."

Boone wasn't buying the Giants as a possibility. They have a left tackle, Andrew Thomas, the fourth overall pick in 2020 and a second-team All-Pro in 2022. Boone doesn't see a team moving Alt to the right side.

"Good left tackles get moved; great left tackles are drafted to play left tackle," Boone said. "And Joe is a great left tackle."

The Chargers have the fifth pick and also need a tackle, but they, too, need a right tackle because on the left side is Rashawn Slater, the 13th overall pick in 2021 and a second-team All-Pro as a rookie.

"All I know is the uncertainty is driving Joe crazy," said John. "He likes structure. He wants to go somewhere and get to work."

Joe confirms this and says he has no idea what will happen. He made visits to the Giants, Titans and Jets, who own the 10th overall pick. The Cardinals have the fourth pick and need a left tackle but have been surprisingly quiet since a brief interview at the scouting combine.

Joe said the ideal fit in his mind is, indeed, Tennessee, which needs a left tackle and has hired one of the league's most well-respective line coaches in Bill Callahan, the 67-year-old father of Titans rookie head coach Brian Callahan.

"I met with Coach Callahan down in Tennessee," Joe said of Bill. "The biggest thing that hit me was it's very black-and-white in how he coaches. He laid out very specific things that he wants for me. It was a great coaching scheme and you know exactly what he wants and how to fix it if you do it wrong. All the visits I had, he was the best."

His father's advice for Thursday: Expect the unexpected.

"I had no idea I was going to Kansas City," said John, a two-time Pro Bowler and 1990 second-team All-Pro. "I was supposed to go to Seattle with the next pick, but the Chiefs traded up."

Kansas City traded cornerback Gary Green, who was coming off three Pro Bowl seasons, to the Rams to get the pick.

"I wasn't a very popular pick at the time," John said with a laugh. "I guess tackles never are. Until you find out you need one."

Like father, like son

Bigger and faster than most grade-schoolers, Joe was a rushing touchdown machine playing for his dad in youth football. Standing 6-foot as a freshman, he played quarterback, like his older brother Mark, an all-state football player at Cretin-Derham Hall before going on to play hockey for the Gophers and in the NHL.

A five-inch growth spurt, like dad's, moved Joe to linebacker and then to tight end, also like dad, who spent his first two years at Iowa at the position. John helped coach the Totino-Grace blockers as Joe, at 6-7, 260, began to bounce between tight end and tackle.

"John is very cerebral, and he still has his NFL notes from blocking the Bruce Smiths of the world, so his teaching was invaluable," said Totino-Grace offensive line coach Tom Rooker. "And Joe's physical ability to finish blocks, frankly, it was tough on the officials because it was a man amongst boys. What would sometimes look like a penalty was really just a good, but very violent play by a dominant player."

Joe went to Notre Dame as a tight end. Within three months, he was the starting left tackle as a true freshman. He started 33 consecutive games in three seasons and was team captain. A mechanical engineering major, Joe said he'll return to South Bend next spring to finish his degree.

John played in the NFL at 6-8, 298 pounds. Joe measured 6-8⅝, 321 pounds with less than 20% body fat at the combine. His 7.31-second three-cone drill was the fastest by an offensive tackle this year and eighth-fastest among all offensive tackles since 1999.

"Joe does things that aren't possible," Boone said. "He's 6-9, 321 and we'll ask him to do wide pulls and his shoulder almost touches the ground, yet he doesn't lose his footing.

"And he's got the perfect locker-room personality. Super funny, mature, has fun with the guys, but the minute you tell him to get serious, everything flips and he turns into this raging bull."

Multiple teams have been calling Joe's inner circle looking for dirt.

"I tell them you won't find anything," Boone said.

"I tell them if you have to ask that question, then you don't really know Joe," said Jay Anderson, head coach at Totino-Grace.

Like any self-respecting lineman, Joe is content to let the quarterbacks have the big stage in Detroit on Thursday. He turned down the NFL's invitation to attend the draft.

"I love that I'm flying under the radar," Alt said. "I like to do my work not in private but in silence.

"Originally, I told my dad I wanted to go to be at the cabin on the dock fishing during the draft. But I had to compromise with my mom [Carolyn]. Personally, I just want to get this part over with and get to work."

Correction: A previous version of a picture caption misidentified the player working out with Joe Alt. He is Chris Reed.