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Josh Allen Trying To Help Kentucky Be Great

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Josh Allen, right, has become a leader for UK's defense. (Vicky Graff Photo) Josh Allen, right, has become a leader for UK's defense. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Not many Kentucky fans knew a lot about New Jersey defensive end Josh Allen when he committed to Kentucky during a whirlwind weekend recruitment.

Former Kentucky assistant coach Derrick Ansley met with Allen and his mother at his New Jersey high school on a Friday morning and a scholarship was offered. Allen boarded a plane to Kentucky to start his official visit and committed to UK a few hours later on the same day he got the scholarship offer.

At the time, he had scholarship offers from only Buffalo and Monmouth. Rutgers, the local school, had not offered a scholarship when UK did.

In two seasons at UK, Allen has played in every game and is becoming a difference-maker.

“I have had to fight adversity my whole life,” said Allen, who played three years of high school football in Alabama before coming back to New Jersey to live with his mother. “I have been doing it my whole life and I am going to keep doing it the best I can.

“We are trying to be great. We are not trying to be good any more. We are trying to be great. I would rather be great than good. I am trying to get that in the heads of everyone so we can become national champions. That is a big thing in your mind. If one believes, all can believe. We have to get it to everybody like that.

“I am looking to excel in my craft. I am trying to get better in my pass rush. Get my IQ up and be more of a leader to help young kids and that will help me, too.”

Allen started nine of 13 games last season at linebacker. He forced four fumbles, tops in the SEC. He led the team and tied for 12th in the SEC with 7.0 sacks and was third on the team in tackles for loss with 8.5 for 49 yards. He finished the year with 62 tackles.

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops expects Allen to make a significant jump in his level of play this season after having a superb season last year.

“He’s one of those guys that I talk about right from the onset, right from the beginning of practice, to have that attention to detail and to take it to another level from the beginning. He's a guy that when he puts the fine strokes on things, he's going to be a very good football player,” Stoops said.

“I think what I liked, the maturity that I'm seeing out of him. He came in the other day just to talk about some things, and we just sat down and had a nice conversation and I like what I see out of him. I could tell he's very focused and interested in taking it to another level.”

Kentucky did win seven games last year and get to a bowl game despite an 0-2 start. Allen anticipates a much better season and wants fans to believe that as well.

“I can’t speak for BBN, but I feel like we are trying to make this a football school and make a name for ourselves. If we do that, we will get Kentucky football on map and that’s what we want,” Allen said. “I am just thankful to be part of team like this. We are still a young team but we are pretty solid at all positions. We still need work but we have talent. I feel like we are going to be pretty solid on defense.

“We are at each other all day. If I feel like somebody on defense is slacking, I will be right there to push them and it should be that way for everybody else. If I see someone playing around, I am going to tell him to get serious. Want him to do that for me, too. It’s all about leadership and telling people to buckle down. I feel like we are on the right track with that now.”

Adapting to life in Kentucky was a little different for Allen after living in New Jersey where the lifestyle is much faster. But he likes it just fine.

“Here I can take a break and just calm down and breathe and just live. I feel like the fan base is getting to know me better and that is making my life easier,” he said. “Every time I go out I take a picture with somebody. I just love that. And it is preparing me for the next level.

“I am a social guy. I am not afraid to talk. If I get a chance I will talk to you. If I feel like nobody is talking to you, I will come up and say something. That’s just the way I am.”

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