Wednesday was national signing day for high school football players. The Super Bowl is Sunday.

But, these days, football is far from Mark Alt's mind.

"[My life] is pretty much hockey now," Alt said.

The Gophers freshman defenseman was a standout high school football player, and his father was an All-Pro NFL player. Alt, who is 6-4 and 194 pounds, chose hockey.

"If I would say who has grown the most this year, it would be Mark Alt," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "He has been on the ice for only one five-on-five goal against since, maybe, early December. And it is not like we are hiding him."

Alt had a 12-game streak with a plus-minus rating of zero or better until last Saturday.

At Cretin-Derham Hall, though, he was best known for other numbers, such as passing yards and touchdowns. Alt was an all-state quarterback as a senior for the Raiders, leading the St. Paul power to the Class 5A championship.

"It was more exciting for me watching him play football," said his father, John, who played 13 seasons as an offensive tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs. "He was involved in every play and made things happen. But I've adjusted. I look at my job. I guarded the quarterback, and I was not much fun to watch. He guards the net. It's similar deal."

Mark Alt and his teammates on the blue line will get a severe challenge when the Gophers play at high-scoring Minnesota Duluth this weekend. Gophers coaches want Alt to be physical, and he has been.

"In the North Dakota series, he was laying out a lot of big hits," goalie Kent Patterson said. "I always like to see big hits, especially against North Dakota. It gets our whole team involved."

Alt accidentally scored his first goal, too, in the Gophers' split with the Sioux in mid-January. It came on a dump-in shot from the blue line.

"He took a lot of heat for his first goal," his father said. "I told him to tell everyone he learned that shot from me: a change-up, lob shot."

Said defensive partner Aaron Ness: "There is always that learning curve [in hockey] -- he is figuring it out. [Mark] knows his role and what he has to do."

"He is definitely getting more physical," said John Alt, who is 6-8 and knows about being "physical" and a little about hockey. He played the sport until fifth or sixth grade at Huset Park in Columbia Heights. "Then I got too tall and was getting hit low," he said.

His son had a chance to play football at Iowa, when John was an All-America, and other Division I schools.

"I always knew [hockey] is what I wanted," said Mark, who was taken in the second round by Carolina in last year's NHL draft.

"Big in his decision was being told he could play right away in [college] hockey," John Alt said. "I don't think he was too fond of sitting as a quarterback and holding a clipboard."

Alt, who had a 4.0 grade-point average in high school, plans to apply to the Carlson School of Management for his sophomore year.

"He has a chance to be a real special player," Lucia said, "the type of guy we need and want that's a leader, that cares a lot about our program."

Alt also played soccer and basketball while growing up, so focusing on one sport might mean quick improvement.

"That's what makes him so intriguing as a player," Cretin-Derham Hall hockey coach Jim O'Neill said. "A lot of 18-, 19-year-olds have been playing 12 months of hockey for years. He has played four, five months a year. He is really raw."

But O'Neill said Alt is improving, making smart decisions with the puck, finishing checks better.

Alt has impressed team captain Jay Barriball enough that Barriball, a four-year starter at shortstop for Holy Angels, is nearly ready to give up his status as the Gophers' "best athlete."

"We've had this debate a few times in the summer when we play basketball and other stuff," Barriball said. "I would maybe give it to Mark Alt. He is an all-star football player and an all-star hockey player and he can dunk.

"I can touch the [basketball] net. But you should see [Mark] play basketball. It is pretty cool when he is flying and dunking."

Or checking (forwards) and blocking (shots).