It has grow to be a footnote within the much-told story of how Josh Allen went from two-star recruit to Nationwide Defensive Participant of the 12 months for Kentucky, however for Kevin Callahan, the footnote is probably the most memorable a part of the story.
Allen arrived at Kentucky after a rash of late decommittments within the 2015 recruiting cycle necessitated a couple of Hail Mary scholarship presents earlier than signing day. A New Jersey highschool teaching contact had clued in UK coach Mark Stoops that there was a dynamic cross rusher in his space who had in some way flown underneath the radar.
Allen was already pledged to FCS Monmouth, however that may be no hurdle to beat ought to an SEC provide come by.
“We thought he was a diamond within the tough; we thought he was a gem that we had uncovered,” mentioned Callahan, Monmouth’s coach of 26 years, when reached by cellphone between recruiting visits this week. “We definitely weren’t going to inform lots of people about him, as a result of we had been hoping that we may grasp onto him.”
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Partly as a result of he spent the primary three years of highschool enjoying large receiver in Alabama, Allen escaped the discover of most FBS applications even after main New Jersey in sacks as a senior.
John Fiore, his coach at Montclair Excessive College, tried with out success to drum up curiosity from the FBS applications that historically recruited the Northeast, together with home-state Rutgers.
“I informed them if he didn’t work out I’d promote my home and pay for his school schooling,” Fiore informed the Courier Journal final yr. “That’s how positive I used to be of the child.”
Whereas Rutgers and others met Fiore’s daring predictions with skepticism, Callahan and his workers noticed lots to love in Allen.
“We thought he had an amazing quantity of potential,” Callahan mentioned. “He was a protracted, athletic, aggressive defensive participant. We thought he was any person that may placed on weight and achieve power over time and will surely fill out. We noticed an enormous upside in it, and on the time we had been on the lookout for that sort of participant, gamers in that place, so we felt it was a no brainer for us to make a scholarship provide to him.”
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The gambit nearly paid off as nicely.
Had defensive finish Tyrone Riley not been amongst of group of UK commitments who flipped within the week earlier than signing day, Kentucky won’t have ever thought-about Allen for a proposal.
Riley now performs offensive deal with for NC State. Allen is ranked because the No. four prospect within the 2019 NFL draft class by ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.
“On the time we had been tremendously disenchanted in shedding a participant we thought had an enormous upside and an amazing quantity of potential, however in conditions like that once you’re an FCS college and an FBS workforce is available in and is ready to present a chance with any person, it’s laborious to be upset about it,” Callahan mentioned.
Callahan was fast to notice it’s inconceivable to criticize one other workers’s recruiting selections with out figuring out the specifics of their wants and scholarship limitations in a given class, however he acknowledged he was stunned there wasn’t extra competitors for Allen when Monmouth was recruiting him.
Kentucky’s workers deserves a lot credit score for creating Allen, who added near 40 kilos in his 4 years in Lexington, from a rangy athlete into this system’s profession and single-season sacks document holder, however Callahan and his Monmouth assistants can take delight within the reality they had been the primary coaches to establish Allen’s potential.
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“We had been enthusiastic about it; we thought he can be an excellent soccer participant right here at Monmouth,” Callahan mentioned. “We had been simply on the verge of going into the Large South and leaving the Northeast Convention and he was the kind of participant that we had been on the lookout for.”
Even with Allen at Kentucky, Monmouth has discovered its personal success, posting at the very least eight wins within the final two seasons and reaching the FCS playoffs in 2017.
However when an assistant coach requested Callahan earlier this yr if he remembered the two-star diamond within the tough the workforce misplaced to an SEC program on the final minute, he had no hassle recalling the story.
“He goes, ‘It’s best to see what he’s doing down at Kentucky; he’s among the best defensive gamers within the SEC proper now,'” Callahan mentioned. “That was a type of issues the place you look again and say, ‘Wow, what might need been, what may have been.’ However we’re excited for him. We’re excited for what he’s doing and the success that he’s having. I feel it says lots in regards to the expertise degree of soccer within the state of New Jersey. That’s the place we’ve constructed our program, from guys within the residence state right here, New Jersey guys.”
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Jon Hale: [email protected]; Twitter: @JonHale_CJ. Help sturdy native journalism by subscribing as we speak: courier-journal.com/jonh.