After eventful offseason, Allen all-in for Cowboys in 2017
LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — Josh Allen’s winter break was not exactly a peaceful, relaxing time. The Wyoming quarterback spent the weeks after the season figuring out whether or not he would be in the brown and gold again next season.
“It was a hectic two and a half weeks for me,” Allen said. “Hard to sleep. I know my parents weren’t sleeping very well.”
On Jan. 11, the news Cowboys fans were praying for came. Allen was returning for his redshirt junior season.
The hype surrounding his NFL potential had intensified in the weeks following Wyoming’s Poinsettia Bowl loss to BYU.
Bleacher Report lead NFL Draft writer Matt Miller projected Allen to go third overall, and the largely unknown quarterback from Wyoming was suddenly being talked about on a national scale.
“Definitely turned a lot of heads, got a lot of people talking about me, which was a good thing,” Allen said. “And me maybe holding out kind of put my name out in the public a little more than it might have needed to be. It turned out good, I guess you could say. But to be projected that high out of nowhere, basically, was definitely a huge surprise.”
Allen talked to a few agents throughout the process, and while Miller’s projection was certainly the most attention-grabbing, Allen had others telling him this was the year to leave.
“I had a few agents talk to me and say, ‘We could almost guarantee you’re going to be first round,’” Allen said, ”‘just based on your traits, and we’ve met you in person, the type of guy you are. We think you’re one of the top guys in this draft.’ They kept saying it’s a weak quarterback class.”
Allen wanted his main focus to be on himself, not on Clemson’s Deshaun Watson or North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky or Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes.
“I just kind of wanted to base it off whether I felt I was ready or not,” Allen said. “Not based on where I’d go because of the other guys in the class.”
Ultimately, he decided he was not.
″(I need to) just take the next step in maturing,” said Allen, who started a full season at the Division-I level for the first time in 2016. “Preparation-wise before games and throughout the season. Perfecting little things. Going out to practice and practicing with a purpose. It’s not easy to do 24/7, year round, to play football, but it’s what I love to do.
“That’s the easy part for me is playing the game. Just getting better at the little things and taking the next step in a leadership role as well.”
Allen first started hearing rumblings about whether he should go pro as the Cowboys’ 8-6 season wound down. If he had, he would have been the second Wyoming player to leave for the draft with at least another year of eligibility remaining. Junior running back Brian Hill announced Dec. 26 he was forgoing his final season.
“I talked to (Hill) probably once every three or four days,” Allen told the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/2lcEJ9c). “He was down in Florida training. Just giving him some words of motivation, and he was giving them right back to me. I wish nothing but the best for that guy. He’s going to do a lot of great things.”
There were days during those few weeks when Allen believed he had played his last snap at Wyoming.
“It was ups and downs,” he said. “Days that I thought for sure I was going to come back and the next day I thought I was going to leave. Just trying to take in as much information as possible from highly credible people, and I feel like that’s what I did very well. I talked to as many people as I could and got the right information and definitely made the best decision for me.”
Dragging him toward the NFL were those high projections and the chance to realize a lifelong dream.
“I was very close to being an NFL player, and that’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do growing up,” he said. “At the same time, you’re thinking about what you want to do for the rest of your life or the next 15, 20 years, and being ready. Sometimes they don’t gel and people make the decision to go early and they don’t end up in the league for more than four years.
“I looked upon that and said, ‘I want to have a 15-year career in the NFL, and to come back for one more year is not going to hurt my chances.’”
Another factor pushing him toward the draft was his competitive nature. Many believed Allen was ready, which only made him more eager to prove he could do it. It’s just who he is.
“I hope people predict us to be last in the conference again,” he said. “Because I love being doubted, and I love looking back and saying, ‘You were wrong. I could have told you that when you said those things about us.’ That’s just the competitiveness in me. I don’t really know where it comes from. It could come from me growing up with my brother and my dad pushing me to do all the stuff that we did as kids, but I love when people doubt us.”
Another factor was the departure of not just Allen but of Wyoming’s three leading receivers: Tanner Gentry, Jake Maulhardt and Jacob Hollister.
Not only were the three crucial offensive weapons for Wyoming in its division-winning season, but they were some of Allen’s best friends.
“It’s hard to come back knowing that some of the guys you hung out with 24/7 aren’t coming back, too,” he said. “But talent-wise, I trust the coaches and their judgment and who they’ve brought in and the guys that are going to step up in their position.”
Many worried that Allen would turn out to be another Brett Smith, the former Wyoming quarterback who left the Cowboys before his eligibility had expired and failed to catch on in the NFL. But the quarterback who played a big role in Allen’s decision was Carson Wentz, who Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl and offensive coordinator Brent Vigen coached at North Dakota State and who started as a rookie for the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I actually got in touch with Carson and talked to him quite a bit over the break in trying to make my decision,” Allen said. “He came out when he was 23 years old. When we were on the phone, he just told me, ‘You’re 20 years old. You’re stepping into a locker room with 30- to 35-year-old dudes that have kids and wives and they’re counting on you to make plays and win games. If you’re not ready for that, it’ll eat you up.’
“He was very sincere, very real about it. I’ve got a lot of respect for Carson, and he’s going to do a lot of great things in his career, too.”
Bohl and Vigen were the two Wyoming coaches Allen spoke with most during the process.
“I talked to them probably once or twice a week,” Allen said. “They were with me throughout this process. They weren’t trying to persuade me one way or the other. They wanted the best for me, and I can’t thank them enough for that.”
Allen will be returning to a different Wyoming team. With so many veteran offensive starters gone, Allen will be expected to be more of a leader his junior season.
But while he expects he will have another career decision to make at the end of 2017, don’t expect Allen to play any less aggressively, even if he has to put his body, and millions of dollars on the line.
“That’s the type of player I am,” he said, “and I’m going to try to put my team in the best situation possible to come out with the victory. If I’ve got to do whatever I need to do to put us in the position, that’s what I’m going to do.”
His goal last year was a conference championship, something Wyoming was just a 27-24 loss away from achieving.
This year, Allen has a new goal.
“I talked to Coach Bohl the day I told him I was coming back,” he said. “The very next thing I said to him was, ‘Let’s go win us a Fiesta Bowl.’ He loved that, and he loves the competitiveness in me.
“I didn’t mean that as a joke. I meant that as a real deal. Let’s go do this thing. Losing our last three games left a real sour taste in my mouth, and I don’t ever want to feel that again.”
Plus, he couldn’t let his final throw at Wyoming be an interception against BYU to clinch a Poinsettia Bowl loss.
“That would’ve been tough to leave out there,” he said. “Don’t jinx it for this year or next year, though. We’ll definitely try to build upon what we did last year and try to forget the last three games, basically, and build off of that.”
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com