Willie Allen has completely embraced the title of “student-athlete.”
Most elite high school athletes would say they’re using their sport as a platform to showcase their abilities for the next level, hoping to ultimately land in the professional ranks.
Allen has other plans.
“The best part of being recruited is knowing you can get a free education,” Allen told USA TODAY High School Sports after receiving his jersey for the Under Armour All-America Game as part of the Selection Tour presented by American Family Insurance. “I’m trying to use football as a platform to get a free education while doing what I love.”
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Allen loves football, and he sure is good at it.
There’s dispute among rankings services as far as how high Allen should be. The 247 Sports Composite Rankings have Allen as a four-star recruit, No. 84 nationally, No. 10 at his position and No. 6 in the state of Louisiana. ESPN begs to differ, ranking the offensive tackle as a five-star recruit, No. 5 nationally, No. 2 at his position and No. 1 in the state.
“I’m surprised to see those differences,” said ESPN national recruiting analyst Craig Haubert. “He’s a massive kid who carries his weight well and has room to develop his frame…He shows the ability to be physical and he can drive defenders.”
His biggest area of development will be in pass protection, but Haubert said he has all the tools necessary to succeed.
“There are no concerns of red flags,” said Haubert of Allen’s character. “I had a chance to visit with him this spring … he’s a quiet kid, almost like a gentle giant. But when you look at the film, he’s not passive in his play.”
Allen, a New Orleans native, almost quit football after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc over the city. In an ESPNU feature, we see just how gentle Allen is off the field. Struggling to get to class and practice on time because of his long commute to school, one of his coaches, Jerry Godfrey, asked Allen if he’d like to move in with is family, and he accepted. The rest is happy history.
Godfrey will get to experience the Under Armour game with Allen as he has been selected as an assistant coach.
Allen said he’s blessed and thankful for the opportunity to play in the game, but for the 6-7, 300-pound lineman, none of the rankings or praise matters.
“I really don’t pay attention to rankings or anything, I just think about Friday nights and getting better,” Allen said. “I love to learn every day. I don’t think I know everything, I just want to get better.”
Allen will pay a visit to Georgia on Dec. 12 and has unofficially visited LSU twice this season. His official visit to LSU is scheduled for Jan. 15. He unofficially visited Auburn in August. His final five are LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss, Auburn and TCU.
He plans to make his college decision on National Signing Day. Until then, he just wants to enjoy the ride.
“I’m just trying to enjoy what’s left of the recruitment process and enjoy high school while I can,” Allen said.
If the whole football thing doesn’t work out, the Under Armour All-American will be just fine.
“My dreams outside of football include majoring in criminal justice, owning bakeries, and becoming an entrepreneur,” he said.
Willie Allen at his Under Armour All-American jersey presentation. (Photo: Intersport)