Two-year journey has happy ending for Allen, Huskers
On a day that was such a roller coaster ride of emotions showcasing the conviction or indecisiveness of 17- and 18-year-old kids, one thing remained a staple throughout the entire process -- Austin Allen was going to be a Husker.
That wasn’t breaking news to any of us. He’s let it be known to all for nearly 10 months now.
That’s Oz. He’s not going to change his mind on a whim or make changes for the sake of changing things up. He’s a straight up guy who sticks to his word.
The lights shone brightest on the 6-foot-9, 230-pound newest Husker signee from Aurora High School. After signing on the dotted line, Allen sat in front of several news cameras and reporters, re-hashing old stories we’ve all heard by now.
He discussed his knee injury last summer, his feelings on officially becoming a Husker, an inside look on conversations he had with Nebraska coach Mike Riley and much more.
But he never wavered. He sat there for upwards of 15 minutes, answered every question that every reporter asked and did so with thoughtful conviction.
Allen joins the growing list of fraternity brothers of Aurora Division I athletes, most notably former Husker Andrew Rodriguez and current Wyoming offensive lineman Gavin Rush, who played every offensive snap as a true freshman for the Cowboys last season. Sign of things to come for another Aurora grad?
I’ve become entranced by telling those I know, and even some I don’t, about “The legend of Oz,” sort of like the stories that people have about athletes like Bo Jackson and the ridiculous things they do while few are watching.
I’m convinced there’s no football that is out of reach for Allen. This past season I did a good amount of observing at Husky football practices, because I feel like it’s part of my job, right?
Anyway, one of the passes goes haywire in the direction of the bench, where Allen was. The ball looked as if it would land in the sixth row of the bleachers, which I guess is still in the target range of Oz, who stuck his mitt up and hauled in the fastball one-handed. He didn’t jump, he didn’t do anything fancy -- he just catches passes.
How about the McCook playoff game from Allen’s junior season?
It was a fourth down and one, 35 yards away from paydirt and the game clock ticking away.
Former Husky quarterback Grant Fox gave a pump fake to one of his receivers, then found Allen in stride and the he rambled into the end zone for the go-ahead score. After the game, Fox admitted he was a bit nervous, but also said “it’s kind of hard to miss a 6-12 kid, so I’m thankful for him and the great protection by the offensive line.”
Do you remember last year’s Heartland Hoops Classic basketball game for the Huskies against Bishop Neumann?
Tied at 64 in overtime as the clock ticked inside of five seconds remaining, a sequence that’s become all-too familiar for Husky fans came to fruition.
Tommy Leininger drove down the right side and gave a lightning-quick underhand dish to Allen who rose up for a thunderous slam that could be heard throughout the Heartland.
How many times have we seen that play this season?
Or even just last Friday, when the game with Waverly was still in doubt with less than 10 seconds to go.
Oz was fouled seemingly to send him to the line as Waverly’s best chance for a Husky to miss.
What’s Allen do? Buries both of them. He’s just ice water, man.
Below is a list of things that different groups of people can expect from the Pride of Aurora over the next four to five years.
To Allen’s new Husker teammates and coaches: You’re getting a football player who won’t quit on himself, or maybe more importantly, the team.
You’ve signed and will get to interact with a yes sir, no sir kid who has his priorities in order.
To all the Husker fans who haven’t seen Oz play yet: Get ready for a red-zone touchdown machine.
Seriously, once inside the 20 just put this guy on the field and he’ll work himself open. With the right quarterback, which is still to be determined, you’ll have the ability to throw Allen open.
He doesn’t have to be all alone or even remotely be open -- just throw it in his general direction and the ball just seems to find his big mitts.
To everyone in Hamilton County who has had the chance to interact with Allen: You can be proud that he will be a representative of the area for the next few years. He’s essentially been a media craze from the Aurora News-Register to the Omaha World-Herald and beyond for the past two seasons. With any luck and a few more legendary plays, his temperature won’t cool down anytime soon.
I’ve gotten to know Oz over the past two years and have always looked for a different way to tell his story. I’ll leave you with this.
Any young Hamilton County athlete who looks up to Allen and wants to someday be as athletically gifted as him, luckily I heard one of his secrets on signing day.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Eat three of them every day and you too can grow your own legend like Oz. Oh, and it needs to be grape jelly.
Results may vary.
RICHARD RHODEN can be reached at email@example.com