Often overlooked by scouts, East Carolina’s Breon Allen has proven his doubters wrong.
Philadelphia, PA, Nov 1, 2014. East Carolina running-back Breon Allen running the ball in the first half against the Temple Owls at Lincoln Financial Field.
(C+P) — Call him James Bond, call him David Copperfield, call him whatever explains his improbable ability to remain a team’s secret weapon despite his decorated and record-breaking career at every level of football. On a team that ranks third in the nation in passing offense and is led by a quarterback in Shane Carden, who recently broke East Carolina’s all-time career passing yards record, it is easy to get overlooked. Then again for the Pirates’ leading rusher, senior Breon Allen, being overlooked is nothing new.
“My first offer out of high school was from Marshall as a defensive back,” explained Allen. “Then they came to watch one of my practices and I guess they took it [the offer] away. They left and told me I wasn’t tall enough.”
Too short, too small, name the critique and Allen has probably heard it. However, none of them have stopped him from excelling at every level he has ever played. In high school, he led his Florida team to three State Championships. Then, after a combined lack of interest from Division I schools and admitted academic issues, Allen found himself at a small junior college in a desolate town in Utah.
It was Snow College, which is appropriately named given its location in the mountains, high altitude, and weather polar opposite to what Allen grew up with on the sunny shores of Florida, emphasis on polar.
“It was different,” remembered Allen. “I would get cramps and nose bleeds. I think I even had altitude sickness at one point. After a week and a half of running in it I was able to get used to it but that week in a half was bad, really bad. It got better though.”
He was still very much buried on the depth chart and fighting for a chance to prove he could play, 5-foot-8 or not.
“A player on the team got in trouble,” Allen recalled as to what allowed him his first chance to play. “I guess I had a good game, I ran for 100 yards or something like that and a couple of touchdowns. From there, I just broke into the rotation and worked my way up.”
And work his way up he did. Allen quickly asserted himself as a starter. In his sophomore season, he led the nation in rushing with 1,632 yards, while also breaking a Snow record with 20 rushing touchdowns, earning National Junior College First-Team All-American honors.
“We had a really good team that year,” Allen noted humbly. “Our offensive line was amazing, kind of like the one I have here [at ECU]. I just got behind those guys and 12 games later I am leading the nation in rushing yards and touchdowns. It was crazy.”
With his two years of eligibility up, it was time for Allen to search again for a new school. While most people would think numbers like the ones above would draw many offers, he once again seemed to fly under the radar.
“The funny thing is nobody reached out to me,” Allen said with a laugh. “I only had two visits the entire time I was in junior college. I went to Boise State first, but they ended up going with someone else.”
In fact, after that offer fell through he was again left without a college to play for despite his overwhelming talent. That was until ECU reached out late in the recruiting process.
“They called at first and said ‘We do not have any scholarships at the moment but if something comes open would you want to come here?’,” recalled Allen who, of course, told them a very emphatic yes.
“Later on they called and I flew there for a visit. I got to meet Coach Ruff, Riley and all of them. They just told me flat out if you come in and work hard you will have a place here, and I guess that was all I needed to hear.”
While he contributed both out of the backfield and on special teams in his first season with the team as a junior, Allen has broken out in 2014 as one of the most explosive players in the country. In fact, the senior ranks fifth in the nation in yards per carry at 7.59. Never more was that on display than against Atlantic Coast Conference member North Carolina earlier this season. In that game, Allen rushed for more than 200 yards, including a sensational 84-yard touchdown scamper to help seal a historic offensive performance and win by the Pirates.
“It was a collective team effort how I got those yards,” said Allen humble as always. “That’s the guys you should be talking about from that game. I did a little magic here or there, but it was definitely my team blocking down field and opening up some holes.”
This was also the game where Allen and his team started to gain some national attention.
“It drives us as a team but mostly we block that out,” Allen said in regards to ECU’s growing notoriety. “Coach Ruff always tells us to stay within ourselves, always be family oriented. The only thing we have is each other, no one else was around when we were dying and hurting this summer in workouts. We don’t get caught up in the hype, we just have to stay together.”
Family is also a driving force for Allen outside of the ECU locker room, as the self-proclaimed momma’s boy has always been motivated by one thing—to make his mom happy.
“Honestly since I have been a little kid, I always wanted to buy things for my mom,” Allen said candidly. “I always want to see her smile. I’ve seen her sad too many times and I never want to see her sad again so whatever I can do to make her happy, that’s what drives me.”
Allen struggled in ECU’s 20-10 loss to the Temple Owls, managing only 36 yards with two costly fumbles; however, if there’s one thing Breon is it’s resilient. Look for Allen to bounced back in upcoming American Athletic Conference match ups with the Cincinnati Bearcats and Tulane Green Wave.
5-foot-8 or 8-foot-5, it simply doesn’t matter because it is a heart like this that has allowed Allen to succeed at every level he has ever played on. With the season he is having, it seems safe to say his mother has spent the majority of the year with a giant grin plastered to her face. Most likely, it is a grin similar to the infectious one seemingly always found on her sons.
Something tells me ECU’s secret weapon will not be a secret much longer. Smile on Breon and mom, smile on.