Josh Allen doesn’t get to be a kid much longer. Just a few more months. Once August hits it’s all football. First his final college season, followed by months and months of scrutiny culminating at the 2018 NFL Draft.
Which is ultimately why the Firebaugh native elected to return to Wyoming this fall and put a temporary pause on his professional future.
So when Allen does enter the NFL, he wants to be as prepared as possible.
“I am 20 years old,” Allen said this week during a visit home. “Just to be able to experience another year of college, to be able to turn 21 and go out with my friends and do all that stuff before I get to an NFL team when everything’s spotlighted and magnified, every camera’s on you every time you go out.
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“I’m just trying to stay low key, and ultimately the NFL’s going to be there next year and the year after that. It’s not going to go away. Once you make that decision to leave, there’s no coming back.”
I didn’t want all that pressure on me right away.
Allen’s rise from small-town high school unknown to sure-fire first-rounder – perhaps even No. 1 overall – has been nothing short of meteoric. I’ve already chronicled how he was ignored by Fresno State, the college he grew up rooting for, and just about every other FBS program.
But that stuff is all in the past. What matters now is enjoying the present, his last few months of being a kid, before the adult responsibilities of his chosen profession take over.
Standing 6 feet, 5 inches and weighing 222 pounds, Allen is everything scouts look for in a franchise quarterback. His size, arm strength, mobility and intangibles are all prototypical. And if last month’s draft showed us anything, with Mitchell Trubisky going No. 2 to the Bears and Patrick Mahomes No. 10 to the Chiefs, NFL teams always gamble on tools.
Allen could’ve thrown his helmet in the ring, too. He and his father, Joel, met with several agents. Josh sought the advice of NFL quarterbacks such as Carson Wentz and Brock Osweiler, plus current and former coaches.
Despite the ever-present risk of injury, this is an intelligent young man making a smart decision.
What he heard convinced him one more year of college was the best course. Despite the ever-present risk of injury, this is an intelligent young man making a smart decision.
“Ultimately the guys said, ‘You’re 20 years old stepping into a locker room full of 30- to 35-year-old dudes. They’ve got kids. They’ve got families, and if you’re not on top of your game mentally you’re going to hurt them, and they don’t take lightly to that,’ ” Allen said.
“I didn’t want all that pressure on me right away, especially playing only 14 games (in college). I felt it was really best for me to go back, get another year of experience and see some more defense. Be completely ready when you do make that jump.”
Had Allen made the jump, he’d already be at an NFL rookie camp. Because he didn’t, he got to be a surprise guest at an “exceptional kids” camp Saturday at Mendota High organized by one of his former Firebaugh coaches. He got to attend a Leukemia & Lymphoma event put together by his sister.
Best of all, he went to a Fresno State sorority event with his girlfriend, Brittany Williams, who happens to captain of the Bulldogs’ dance team. (Brittany is also the daughter of former Fresno State linebacker Chris Williams, now superintendent of the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District.)
And after meeting with me at Campus Pointe, where Allen blended in with all the other college students, he was taking his grandmother out for lunch.
“It’s great being back home,” said Allen, who is on track to earn his communications degree after fall semester.
Once you make the decision to leave (college), there’s no going back.
When I look at Allen, with his dark hair, baby-faced cheeks and limitless potential, I’m instantly reminded of David Carr.
Not so much that Allen and Carr look alike or throw much alike. More about how all this hype is happening so fast – and seemingly out of nowhere.
I’ll never forget a brief conversation I had in August 2001 with Jan Cummings, a great lady who used to be Fresno State’s football secretary. She asked me one day, before the start of fall camp, where I thought Carr would get drafted.
“If everything goes right,” I told her, “I could see him being as high as a second-round pick.”
Of course, Carr ended up going No. 1 overall to the expansion Texans. I sold him way short.
The difference is that Carr stayed a secret until his senior season, leading the Bulldogs to a No. 8 national ranking before things went awry.
14 FBS games played by Josh Allen entering his junior season at Wyoming
The secret on Allen is out. The hype is already at full blast, as evidenced by this week’s six-page story in Sports Illustrated. (Former Bulldogs slugger Aaron Judge is on the cover.) Every spiral, every read, every scramble he makes this fall will be examined and scrutinized.
The 20-year-old from the one-stoplight town of 8,300 believes he’s ready.
“That stuff comes with the territory, I guess you can say,” Allen said. “But I love playing the game of football and could really care less about what everyone else has to say about my football game. Ultimately my job is to go out there and win games for the Wyoming Cowboys or whatever team drafts me.”
Still a few months to be a college kid. The future can wait, at least for a little while.