“How does a quarterback with prototypical NFL size, arm strength and athleticism go overlooked by almost every Division I program in the country?” asks Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports regarding the lack of recruiting interest shown in Josh Allen.
This is also a question that Josh Allen pondered himself, along with thousands of high school football players around the country today.
Growing up in a tiny farmland near Fresno, California, Allen was disadvantaged from the beginning. In Southern California, where blue-chip prospects are plentiful, Allen was seemingly invisible to recruiters while growing up in Firebaugh.
Allen excelled in basketball and baseball at Firebaugh High School but was particularly infatuated with football where he was a two-year starting varsity quarterback. Over his two seasons, he passed for more than 5,200 yards with a TD/INT ratio of 59 to 15. Still, this led to almost no recruiting interest at all.
The family was proactive in sending out game film, but they were lucky if they received a reply. And it never led to any offers or much of anything at all.
This is a place where countless recruits find themselves; stuck at a crossroads. It’s common to feel like you’re not being fairly assessed or even seen at all in the first place. In these times, it’s imperative to stick with the process. Determination and persistence are key at this stage.
Allen stuck with it, and eventually was noticed by a nearby community college. The offensive coordinator at Reedley College was able to see his progression in high school and ended up recruiting him to the JUCO.
“He was putting up ungodly numbers and making some incredible throws, but he was getting no love,” said Ernie Rodriguez, the OC for Reedley College. “I didn’t understand it. I couldn’t believe that nobody wanted him.”
Once again, this goes to show that no matter if you feel like nobody’s watching, perform like there are. Allen took the only opportunity that was presented to him to continue to play football and enrolled at Reedley College.
He continued to show the value he could provide a football team early on as the backup quarterback, and soon overtook the starting position. He reeled off six impressive games in a row to end the season which reinvigorated the hope that he could attend a D-I school.
During his time at Reedley, coaches at Wyoming had caught wind of his development and paid him a visit when the Cowboys were in town to play Fresno State.
“By no means was Josh perfect, but you could see that he had good size, athleticism and arm strength,” said Wyoming offensive coordinator Brent Vigen. “Just based on his physical skill set alone, he was certainly worth digging into further.”
After that visit in 2014, Wyoming’s head coach, Craig Bohl made an additional visit, this time to the Allen household. It was in this meeting that Bohl offered Allen a scholarship. Wyoming’s coaching staff told Allen and his family that they felt as though they had stumbled upon a program-altering talent in Josh.
“I’m trying to be a tough guy, but I was holding back the tears,” said Joel Allen, Josh’s father. “You try so hard to get your son noticed and he gets rejected over and over. So, to finally hear a coach say something like that, it was very exciting.”
The work was not over, however. Allen would be making a jump from JUCO football to Division-I. And it proved to be a big one.
Just 13 plays into his career at Wyoming, Allen broke his clavicle. As Eisenberg stated, the Wyoming coaching staff would eventually come to view this injury as a blessing in disguise. And the aftermath of this injury is a lesson that any young football player can use as a lesson in their own lives.
Rather than sulk, Allen used the extra time on his hands to master the playbook and build up his strength. When he was finally able to return to the field, Allen was in a place to dominate his competition mentally and physically.
“By the start of Allen’s junior season, the quarterback with the golden arm also had the mental acuity to make the right reads, the strength to withstand punishing hits, and legs that could keep plays alive,” said Eisenberg.
From there, Allen was on a mission. He spent two years making every college coach and recruiter who didn’t recruit him look blind. After two full seasons as the starter for the Wyoming Cowboys, Allen declared for the draft. He wound up being selected 7th overall by the Bills.
His already-illustrious NFL career is further proof that if you stick to a goal with enough persistence and determination, your background doesn’t matter. Allen had no background. He wasn’t granted a star rating on 247 Sports. He attended a JUCO. It didn’t matter.
Everybody’s path is different. Follow in Allen’s footsteps not by replicating his path, but by forging your own, and doing whatever it takes to achieve your goals.