If you’re a Kentucky fan, you know what senior linebacker Josh Allen means to the football team. He’s the most dominant pass rusher on the roster and the heart and soul of the defense, leading the Wildcats in tackles for loss (9.5) and sacks (seven) in 2017. If he continues on his current trajectory, there’s a solid chance he’ll be walking across the stage as a first-round draft pick next spring.
Today, we learned a whole lot more about Allen’s life and what led him to where he is today. And the story is inspiring, fascinating, and everything in between.
Jen Smith of the Herald-Leader, arguably the top Kentucky football beat writer in the game, gave the world an inside look at Allen’s upbringing, his rough start in football, and all of the adversities that came along the way.
And through it all, Allen separated himself as one of the best defensive players in the game.
Battling a stuttering problem and ADHD, the Kentucky standout actually started his academic career in special education classrooms,
“He wanted to tell us stuff so bad that he didn’t even take the time to say it,” Allen’s mom told the Herald-Leader.
“I literally had a teacher telling my family that I wasn’t capable,” said Allen.
After years of battling with his classes in New Jersey and longing to make new friends in a regular classroom setting, Allen moved in with some relatives in Alabama to reboot his academic career.
“I had to show people that I was capable of doing this, going to classes by myself, doing the workload, doing everything right,” he said. “I had to prove myself.”
And though it was a move that helped him academically, it also nearly ended his football career three separate times. At first, he didn’t want to play with the country kids, deciding to not go out for football as a freshman. After his uncle convinced him to give it a shot, he was pummeled, bodyslammed, and jumped by his teammates, causing him to quit the sport another two times.
Through the pain, he stepped on the field once again, this time for good. And the rest was history.
He became a star receiver in Alabama, and then after transferring back home to New Jersey, he finished his high school career as a defensive end.
Allen was committed to Monmouth for a short time, but Kentucky found themselves with an open scholarship looking for a defensive pass-rushing standout.
Head coach Mark Stoops talked to Smith about the recruiting process and taking a chance on the two-star talent.
“We started looking through the film and we liked what we saw” of Allen, said UK Coach Mark Stoops of the find, which ended in a former Cats assistant seeing Allen at his high school and then putting him on a plane to Lexington for a visit just a few hours later.
“It’s not always the first 15 in your class, sometimes it’s the last one, two or three that make all the difference, the ones that nobody talks about and he’s the perfect example,” Stoops said of Allen.
A two-star who could turn into a superstar, potentially joining a mural on Stoops’ office wall of first-round draft picks he has coached.
“Those are the stories that make every coach proud,” Stoops continued. “That you find a diamond in the rough, that you find a kid, a humble, hard-working, talented young kid that nobody really knows about that you can potentially develop into a first-round draft pick.”
Please read Jen Smith’s article in its entirety at the link below. I promise it will be well worth your time.
— Jen Smith (@jenheraldleader) July 14, 2018