Allen hopeful for return to summer football activities

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Like the rest of us, Husker junior tight end and former Aurora Husky Austin Allen is chomping at the bit, ready for life to get back to normal, ready to resume football practices and just ready to resume being around all of his teammates and friends once again.
And just like the rest of us, all of that is going to depend on the coronavirus.
He told me this past week that he’s still in Lincoln, still there after spring drills were cancelled following just two initial spring practices back in March.
He said the abrupt end certainly caught him and other Husker players off guard.
“It was at the start and we all had the mentality this will blow over,” Austin said. “As the days went on and things got a little more serious, it was just crazy to think they could cancel school. And then there’s no way they’re going to cancel spring practice, and then here we are. It’s crazy.”
Austin told me that switching his classroom work over to an online format was relatively easy, despite the fact that a lot of his ag teachers aren’t necessarily technology-driven. But he also said that since he doesn’t check emails or texts too often, it’s been a challenge.
“This is finals week and I just took one (test). All I have left is a team project.”
Like Austin, some Huskers stayed in Lincoln, while others went home to wait things out. He said staying in touch with some teammates, like those who live in his neighborhood, has been important, but that’s not been possible with the entire team.
“They’re starting to trickle back (to Lincoln),” Austin noted about the Husker team as a whole. “Word is June 1 is when we’ll be able to start doing things again. It’s been hard to touch base with all of them, but we’ve been getting e-mails from our team psychologists and team trainers. They’re all here for us, so that’s really nice.”
As far as trying to stay in shape, Austin told me that coaches have given all the players workout routines to do on their own, workouts to do every day.
“They’ve given us workouts that we can do without weights and workouts if we have weights, and also running to do,” he pointed out. “It’s run and lift every day. I’ve gained five pounds of good weight since this. Their goal for me is still 265 (pounds), and I weighed in the other day at 254.
“It’s for sure tough to get motivated, for me, especially. It’s easier to lift when you have 30 of your teammates with you, but when you’re alone in your living room, it’s hard. That’s real.”
That weight gain is most likely the result of the ability of the university to offer drive-thru meals for their athletes, and Austin said the process works pretty well.
“You have to have a mask on when you pull up,” he said about the process. “They give you a shot of Tumeric (a drink that offers anti-inflamatory properties), then they hand you a whole breakfast, a hot lunch and a cold dinner that we can heat up. They give you a lot, too, so that’s been nice.”
When I asked him about what he was thinking on April 18, the day the Spring Game was to be played, Austin told me that it definitely was a different feeling.
“It was kind of weird. I was actually in our backyard playing some yard games, and I looked at my phone and I said, ‘Guys, we’re supposed to be playing in the spring game right now.’ And it was such a beautiful day.”
As far as staying updated on the Xs and Os of football, Austin mentioned that he’s been able to stay in contact with the coaches, and that the process has been fairly easy.
“The last couple weeks we’ve been doing Zoom meetings and coaches have been able to share the screen,” he said about the internet process. “We’ve been able to watch film, dissect a lot from last season, introduce stuff from the NFL, plays that we want to add to our arsenal.”
Austin also said he’s pretty excited about the Huskers’ new offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach, Matt Lubick, even if things got shut down this spring. Lubick coached previously with Scott Frost for three seasons at Oregon, and he has 25 years experience, coaching in the ACC, Big Ten, Pac 12 and SEC.
Austin now has five career starts, his first at Colorado in 2019, but he rarely gets the ball thrown his way, securing just seven pass receptions this past season even though, at times, he appeared to be wide open.
“The two practices that we had,” Austin noted, “he introduced a lot of stuff for the tight ends. He loves tall tight ends. Good for me, I guess.”
To Austin’s credit, he also was just named to the 2020 Sam Foltz Hero 27 Leadership Award team, a huge honor for him because just 27 athletes from the entire Lincoln campus were recognized for their community service.
“They recognize people who exemplify the traits that Sam showed, and for what he did,” Austin noted about the former Husker punter who died tragically in a car accident. “They take the top 27 athletes out of the whole 650 of us that go the extra mile in the community. They give us a lot of opportunities to do that, but what really helped me was I went on a service trip to Alaska (about a year ago) and I earned a lot of points that way. I learned a lot and it was a big honor to get that.
“Every year they take 10 or so athletes to another country, a service trip abroad, and it’s supposed to open our eyes to new cultures because we don’t necessarily get a lot of time off, with athletics.”
Austin also mentioned that the Alaska trip was quickly scheduled after his group originally planned to visit Sri Lanka, but bombings at several churches and hotels last April forced the change.
“It was super eye-opening for me because that’s my element. Living in the mountains, a cabin, and the wilderness.”
Ironically, that would be the place to be until all of this blows over.
DAVE BRADLEY can be reached at advertising@hamilton.net.

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