#RedDevilsAlum: Allen evolves from Red Devil to L.A. Ram

5 minute read

By Ken Knutson

Hinsdale’s Brian Allen remembers riding home with a friend’s family from youth football years ago and making a bold prediction.

"I told them I was going to make the NFL," he said. Fast forward to the end of last month and the 2018 NFL Draft. The former Hinsdale Central standout and senior center for the Michigan State University Spartans was ranked among the top pro prospects at his position. Highly regarded by scouts for both his leadership and ferocity, Allen hoped those traits would earn him a later-round selection.

"I knew I wasn’t going to get drafted in the second or third rounds, so I was just at home watching the draft," Allen said. "I was seeing where the center market was going."

By the start of fourth round April 28, his stock was quickly rising and his cellphone was getting a workout. He and older brother Jack - an NFL free agent - were glued to ESPN while tending a backyard fire.

"A lot of calls were coming in, teams calling about taking me in free agency," he said.

Right before the 111th overall pick, Allen’s caller ID read "Thousand Oaks, Calif." Having visited the Los Angeles Rams’ complex for private workouts, Allen knew the team liked him. But was this the moment?

"I thought it was going to be another feeler call," he admitted.

On the other end of the line was Les Snead, the Rams’ general manager, calling with the news that ex-Red Devil was now a Ram. The online video of the conversation has gotten 90,000 views:

Snead: "Do you want to be an L.A. Ram?"

Allen: "Hell yeah!"

Meanwhile, Jack was pounding on the back window to alert their parents, John and Leslie, that their middle son’s selection was about to be broadcast. Youngest brother Matt, also at Michigan State, is expected to become the Spartans’ starting center.

"My dad actually got mad, saying, ‘Why are you banging on the window!?’ " Allen related. "Usually we’re throwing baseballs through windows."

But soon elation was the primary emotion. Allen had become the first Hinsdale Central graduate drafted into the NFL.

"I kind of got excited and kind of blacked out," he said after his call with the Rams’ staff.

In addition to leaving his mark on Central football, Allen was also a state champion wrestler. Central wrestling coach Jason Hayes realized right away that Allen was a special talent.

"I knew he had great athletic ability when we coached him. He had movement like a 152- or 160-pounder, but he was in the heavyweight division," Hayes said. "He had a tremendous work ethic. He worked his tail off, and he was very confident in himself."

That wrestling background is typically viewed as an asset by football scouts for the need to understand physical angles and leverage. Hayes said it also forges another skill.

"Mental toughness," Hayes said. "Wrestlers learn not to panic. The mental aspect is one that has contributed to Brian’s success. "We were blessed, we were grateful, we all were very proud to coach him," he added.

Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio praised Allen, whose selection made it 78 straight years that a Spartan has been drafted.

"The characteristics that define Brian are perseverance, grit and intelligence. He is a very powerful, tough minded and confident player with the right mentality to succeed as an offensive lineman in the NFL," Dantonio told the Detroit Free Press. "He was well-coached and developed at several positions by (offensive line coach) Mark Staten, and was one of the finest centers in all of college football."

Those sentiments were echoed by the Rams’ Snead at a post-draft press conference.

"Not only does he block people, he just finishes, gets in position and drives people off the ball," Snead said. "Just a fun guy to watch. But other than that, a really good technician, a very smart, great guy."

An economics major, Allen was a 2017 semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, widely known as the "Academic Heisman," and was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection.

He looks forward to developing his pro game under the tutelage of Rams’ seasoned center John Sullivan.

"I hope it’s a pretty good fit, having a veteran there like that to learn from as much as I can," he said.

His recent schedule has consisted of morning workouts and "hanging around the house." That’s about to change, of course, with his impending departure for the west coast to take part in organized team activities, or OTAs, that start May 21.

Another date to circle on the calendar is Dec. 2. That’s when the Rams will be in Chicago to face the Bears.

"I’ve got to make the team first," Allen said, tamping down any premature excitement.

Then he allows himself a moment of anticipation.  

"It’ll be exciting to come back and make it to Soldier Field."

Copyright 2018 The Hinsdalean