The Indianapolis (Ind.) Ben Davis football program keeps track of tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, forced fumbles, interceptions, etc…
For their hard-hitting safety Antonio Allen, there is another category that isn’t official, but it’s certainly talked about.
The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Allen had three of them this past fall.
“It’s so bad, he’s not allowed to hit people in practice because he’ll hurt our own kids,” Ben Davis coach Mike Kirschner said. “I don’t want anyone else’s kids getting hurt, but if we turned him loose, he’d knock a kid out.”
Nicknamed “Woo” because that’s the noise the crowd makes when Allen lays the wood, his style of play has landed him scholarship offers from the likes of Iowa, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, Minnesota and Purdue. Several other programs including Oklahoma are showing personal interest.
Finishing his junior season with 72 solos, 42 assists, four pass breakups an interception and those three knockouts, in helping his team win a sectional championship, Allen was groomed to be a physical football player at a young age. Playing in a local youth football league beginning back in sixth grade, his father wouldn’t allowed him to go to his game until he ran full steam into a tree while wearing his pads and dislodged some bark.
“Sometimes it took a long time, sometimes it didn’t,” Allen laughed. “I would try and look for bark that was halfway off and try and cheat, but my dad would make me go to the other side and start over.”
After hitting trees, slamming into human beings was nothing for Allen, who made a huge impression on Kirschner and his staff playing special teams in practice as a sophomore.
“He’s just knocking the dog doo doo out of people,” Kirschner said.
Allen racked up over 30 tackles alone on special teams that fall, and at the same time, Kirschner and company were coaching him up to be an inside linebacker. Allen all of a sudden wasn’t playing at the same speed because he struggled to see over the larger linemen and find the football. With four games remaining in the season, Kirschner moved Allen to free safety, and it all came together.
“It was a vision thing,” Kirschner said. “When we moved him, he was back to running around and laying licks on people.”
Iowa and Minnesota were the first two schools to notice Allen following that sophomore season when watching game film of his older teammates. Hawkeyes assistant coach Eric Johnson called Kirschner in the evening to ask who No. 40 was. Shortly after, Allen had his first offer before he even played a down as a junior.
“Coach Johnson said it was the first time Coach (Kirk) Ferentz offered anybody without seeing them in person,” Kirschner said.
Johnson visited Ben Davis a couple weeks later and saw Allen for the first time, and it was like he was seeing a former Iowa great.
“He said ‘Oh my God he looks like Bob Sanders,’” Kirschner said. “Coach Ferentz said the same thing a month ago, physically, size wise and the way he plays the game.”
The offer from Iowa was a game changer for Allen, who will be the first person in his family to attend college.
“That’s a big thing to me,” Allen said. “Then going to college and playing football, that’s a very big thing for me. Nobody in my family had scholarships but my dad. He had a scholarship to play football at Ohio State but he messed it up. He got into some trouble hanging out with the wrong people, so I look to that and say I don’t want to get in trouble like he did and mess up everything.”
Even more importantly, Allen knows his four younger brothers are looking up to him.
“Teens are out there dying and I don’t want to go out there and get shot or anything,” Allen said. “I’ve always done well in school. My little brothers look up to me and I don’t want them to see me doing anything negative.”
A few schools have emerged for Allen in Iowa, Michigan State and Ole Miss, but he hasn’t ruled out any program recruiting him. This weekend will make his first trip out to Iowa City. He keeps in regular touch with Coach Johnson.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s told me about the school,” Allen said. “Which is a nice campus, good coaches, a good weight room, guys just going wild in the weight room really hard. I’m looking for nice things at Iowa.”
This past weekend, Allen was down at Ole Miss.
“The campus was good,” Allen said. “The coaches were lovely too. I like Ole Miss. I think I’d go there and do good and get good grades. I don’t see anything negative down there about it.”
Earlier this spring, Allen visited Michigan State.
"I had a great visit up there," Allen said. "I got to check out their campus, sit in on some of their meetings, went to their practice and met all the coaches. I'm glad I got a chance to get up there and check everything out.
"My favorite part was watching them practice and seeing them do the same thing we do. I would already be used to their stuff if I did choose to go there. They mix up their practice with special teams and stuff like that."
Allen’s not sure when he’ll make a college decision. His focus right now is on preparing for the ACT so he can be a December graduate and enroll early to the school he chooses.
Kirschner sits back and smiles at the growth Allen has gone through in the three years he’s been at Ben Davis.
“He has a mission and he hasn’t fallen away from it,” Kirschner said.
“A couple weeks ago he’s sitting in my office. I said what’d you do this last weekend? He said he didn’t go out. I said what, you didn’t go out? He said well coach there was a big party down the street. I could have gone down and hung out at the party. He goes at 11 p.m. that night, you hear the gun fire and cop cars and he goes I just stayed at my house.
“Now here’s a 17-year old high school kid that’s already a lot smarter than a whole bunch of adults in this world, that realizes if I go down there, I’m not going to get to do what I really want to do which is be successful and play football.”
He also wouldn’t be allowed to hit people anymore.
Highlights of Antonio Allen can be watched HERE.