A Massachusetts Fullback in Frank Beamer's Court
by Cary Whaley
TSL Extra, Issue #22

Even though it will be a year before he takes his first snap for the Hokies, walk-on fullback Jesse Allen is already a household name on the TSL message boards. Of the 14 recruited walk-ons in this year’s class, Jesse Allen is arguably the best known of the bunch.

Coming from a small high school in Western Massachusetts, Jesse Allen is an unlikely hero in this year’s recruiting class. The story of how an 18 year-old from Palmer Massachusetts ended up not only walking-on to Tech but becoming a fan favorite is a testimony to his hard work and training, and the love of his family and the power of the Internet.

Playing Hard

Jesse has been playing football and, more importantly, hitting people, since the 4th grade. Since then his father, Tim Allen, has served as his personal coach and trainer. A former national champion swimmer, Tim believed in the benefits of hard training. On any given day, Jesse could be found in his yard, in full gear, training, lifting weights, running combines and knocking things around. One winter his father tied a snowmobile on him and made him drag it through the woods in a foot of snow.

As a three-year starter for Pathfinder HS in Palmer, Massachusetts, Jesse's years of hard training started to yield big dividends. He started as a sophomore at defensive tackle and became a starting running back as a junior. In his junior and senior years, he rushed for a total of 4067 yards and 42 touchdowns, gaining All-Western Massachusetts honors at running back for both years. On defense he was equally as impressive, with a total of 380 tackles during his junior and senior years.

"By the time he was done, he was pretty consummate," said Pathfinder Head Coach Chris Pope. "The first thing I had to break Jesse of was that he just wanted to hit people. That’s a nice problem to have. By his final games, he’d straight on a guy, wait for a block, burst speed, out-run people, he had a ton of tools in his hand and learned how to use them when he needed to. He ate up our league, absolutely.

"Jesse’s conditioning is absolutely incredible," added Pope. "He’s benching 370 lbs and is still growing. And you could put another 30 pounds on him and not lose a step."

Recruiting Interest

Starting in his junior year, Tim Allen started contacting colleges via email. Jesse’s uncle, Tom Allen, was convinced that Jesse was a Division 1-A player and created a web site, www.jesseleeallen.net, that had statistics and film clips. Colleges began to take notice. Jesse received scholarship offers from Division 1-AA schools University of Maine and University of Massachusetts.

Jesse attended combines at Northeastern University, Holy Cross, and Boston College. At the combines Jesse led the running backs and placed high in the bench press and ran consistent 4.6’s. He attended camps at University of Connecticut and Boston College, where he took official visits, but neither school offered a scholarship.

Meeting NCAA clearinghouse requirements was also challenge for Jesse. Coming from a vocational school, where he majored in electronics and carried college prep courses, Jesse was missing an Algebra 2 course. He took the course at a local college and received an "A" to meet clearinghouse requirements. However, he was still overlooked by D-1A colleges

" My theory," explained father Tim Allen, "was that Jesse played in a lesser division and these scouts didn’t feel he could play at the higher divisions. The beauty of it all was when he was selected to play in the state all-star game his team made him captain because of the havoc he raised with all those AA kids. They lost the game 28-20, but Jess was very confident that he could play anywhere and was very happy with his performance."

"Part of it," said Pope, "was that his family was enamored with Virginia Tech. UConn and UMass were big-time interested. The family, his father, sincerely believed that Jesse could play at that level."

Becoming a Hokie

Undaunted in his belief that Jesse could excel at the highest level of college football, Jesse’s uncle Tom Allen became convinced that Virginia Tech provided the best opportunity for Jesse. A Miami resident and Hurricanes fan, Tom was familiar with Tech’s traditional of success with walk-on players, particularly at fullback. He encouraged his brother Tim to contact Assistant Head Coach Billy Hite.

"My brother…was in touch with me asking about these different schools," related Tom Allen. "Tim calls me up and asked ‘What’s up with Virginia?’ I said Virginia TECH is a great program. I’ve been a Miami fan and it’s probably one of the best-coached teams I’ve seen. I told him it would be a perfect place. I knew about the walk-on program. That’s when it all started."

During the 2001 Christmas break, Jesse went to Blacksburg on an unofficial visit while the Hokies were preparing for the Gator Bowl. The coaching staff and the football program as a whole impressed Jesse and his family. By the end of the visit the Allens had spent $500.00 on VT shirts, jackets, Hokie-birds, key rings etc. Jesse’s car had a Hokie Bird on its rearview mirror, and he was never seen without a VT shirt, hat or shorts on. The Hokie bug had bitten him.

Meanwhile, Tom also became a frequent poster to TSL (under the ID "Tallen"). Hokie fans were watching the film clips on his web site and were becoming aware of Jesse’s football talent.

In March of 2002, just when it appeared Jesse would accept a D-1AA scholarship at University of Massachusetts, Coach Hite asked Jesse to come to Virginia Tech's spring football game. During the visit, Hite offered Jesse a walk-on spot on the team, which Jesse and his parents readily accepted.

Jesse’s father, Tim said the deciding factor was Coach Beamer and the entire Tech coaching staff. "They don’t recruit hoards of all-Americans all over Florida and New Jersey. They recruit Virginia kids mostly, yet every year they’re in a bowl game, etc. We like Coach Beamer and feel he will give Jesse what he deserves, if he can earn it. Jesse really likes Coach Hite. Hite is teaching him, molding him into the player he needs to be."

"Initially I was concerned with him going from being a big fish in a small pond, to playing at that (D-1A) level," related Coach Pope. " But when he came back from Virginia Tech, the first thing he said to me was ‘Coach, I can play with these guys. Now I know it.’ It was real heartening to me, just to hear it. From that point on, I felt real good about it."

The Work Begins

Jesse comes to Blacksburg as an invited or "preferred" walk-on. Preferred walk-ons bypass walk-on tryouts and participate in the August two-a-day practices. He will practice with the scout team as a fullback. While he plans to redshirt, he’s already turned heads in the "middle drill," were his teammates have nicknamed him "Moose" after legendary Dallas Cowboys fullback Daryl Johnston.

Not surprisingly, Jesse has also made an impression in the weight room where he had the third best bench press (370 lbs, surpassed only by DE Chris Burnett and OL Brandon Gore at 380 lbs) amongst the incoming freshman class. With his passion for training, he’ll most likely find a soul mate in Assistant Athletic Director of Athletic Performance Mike Gentry.

He’s currently listed at fourth team fullback, but has the size and ability to excel at linebacker. While he prefers to play at fullback, Jesse’s goal is to help the team in any manner. Anyone who knows Jesse thinks he’ll go far.

"They’re getting a kid with incredible genetics," said Pope. "You could take this kid a long way. He’ll do everything and more for them."



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