Jeff Allen is an intern, and until recently worked at a company that helped provide analysis for college football games. It’s what he did while not playing in the Crimson Tide’s game Saturday against LSU before getting drafted by the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL.
Nick Saban is the head coach for Alabama football. He has been with the team since 2007 and has led them to three national championships. How did he become invaluable to the team?
With Nick Saban just a few days into his first preseason session as Alabama’s coach, Jeff Allen warned his boss that the players needed to transfer to the indoor facility as thunderstorms swept into the Tuscaloosa region one August afternoon in 2007.
Allen had only been on the job as Alabama’s chief athletic trainer for a little more than two months at the time, and he didn’t completely comprehend the scope of his work, or more accurately, his roles, at the time.
The sky cleared, the sun shone, and Allen checked the radar to discover that there were just a few showers to the east within minutes of the crew heading inside.
“Coach, it’s looking fantastic right now. There is no longer a lightning warning. Let’s go back out there, shall we? “Saban was informed by Allen.
So the squad returned to the practice field, with Saban and Allen heading out together, when a lightning bolt struck Coleman Coliseum, the Alabama basketball stadium situated only a few hundred yards from the practice field.
“I sure as hell hope you’re a better trainer than you are a weatherman,” Saban said (really yelled) at Allen.
It was a dubious beginning to an enduring relationship that remains at the core of a college football dynasty that has a chance to further cement its place among the most renowned dynasties in any sport Monday night when Alabama faces Georgia in the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App).
Allen, 50, has been a part of the Crimson Tide’s six national titles under Saban and has done a little bit of everything throughout his tenure in Tuscaloosa, including maintaining his position as the team’s de facto weatherman.
Alabama junior nose guard DJ Dale remarked, “Jeff is the secret sauce of how everything works here.”
Indeed, he’s an award-winning trainer, so much so that Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, a former Tide standout who dealt with his fair share of ailments in college, refers to Allen as “pretty much a legend at Alabama.”
He’s become the players’ surrogate father, the coaches’ sounding board, and Saban’s closest confidante.
Even when the strain of playing and coaching at Alabama reaches absurd levels, he’s been a fixer of issues, not only medical ones, and a constant voice of reason.
He’s also been “invaluable,” as Saban so eloquently puts it.
Saban said ESPN, “And he’s been that way for a long, long time.” “You’re dealing with a man who is as solid as they come in terms of the sort of person he is, the level of professionalism he has, his work ethic, attention to detail, and everything else. Jeff is top-notch in all of those areas.
“We’ve gone through a lot together, and he’s always been there, one of those men you can trust on no matter what’s going on around you, good or terrible,” says the author.
Allen has been jokingly referred to as the “last guy standing” by Saban. That’s because Allen is the final member of Saban’s football staff who was hired in 2007.
Former Alabama quarterback Blake Sims, who led the Tide to an SEC title in 2014, said, “That ought to tell you something right there about what Jeff has meant to the program.” “Coach Saban’s and Jeff’s resumes speak for themselves.”
Coach Mike Locksley of Maryland, who was a part of Alabama’s coaching staff from 2016 to 2018, still has Allen on fast dial for any organizational issues that arise in his training room or anything else that has to do with his program.
“If Nick Saban is Alabama’s soul, Jeff Allen is the glue that holds it all together,” Locksley said.
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Barrett Jones, an All-America offensive lineman, tore ligaments in his left foot in the SEC championship game in 2012 (a Lisfranc injury). Just before Christmas, Allen and Jones travelled to Nike’s headquarters in Eugene, Oregon, to have a custom fitting shoe constructed for Jones to relieve the strain on his foot. Allen also had an anti-gravity treadmill delivered to the BCS national championship site in Miami so Jones could continue to rehab his foot until the game.
“Jeff is simply that sort of man,” Jones said. “He is concerned about the athletes’ well-being, not simply the success of the program. He wasn’t hesitant to speak up to coach Saban when he believed a guy couldn’t play, and he wasn’t scared to push a player to be ready to play when he felt he was healthy enough.”
After breaking two ribs in the SEC championship game a month earlier, former quarterback Greg McElroy, now an ESPN analyst, credits Allen with getting him healthy enough to play in the BCS national championship game to cap the 2009 season — Saban’s first national title at Alabama — after McElroy broke two ribs.
Although an initial X-ray revealed no severe injury to McElroy’s ribs, the agony lingered for more than a week after the game. He sensed something wasn’t quite right. An further MRI was ordered, which revealed the two fractures and inflammation between the ribs.
“‘You’re not going to miss this game,’ he said, despite the fact that it wasn’t good or looked good. We’ll do all we can to get you out there,’ says the team “McElroy said. “You have no idea how comforting it is to hear such words from your trainer when you’re facing the risk of not being able to participate in the greatest game of your career.”
Allen developed a bone stimulator for McElroy to wear to speed up his recuperation, and he assured the Tide quarterback that if it took him till midnight every night to bring him out on the field in Pasadena, he would.
McElroy responded, “Anything to make me feel better.” “I had no intention of missing that game. My mother had no idea I had shattered ribs. If she’d understood the seriousness of my injuries, she would have freaked out, but Jeff was there to help me get through it.”
Corey Miller, who spent eight seasons in the NFL with the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings, is still “blown away” by Allen and his whole staff’s thoroughness, compassion, and fatherly attitude. Christian Miller, Miller’s son, played at Alabama and tore his biceps muscle during the 2017 national championship season, but he was able to return for the national title game against Georgia and got a sack against the Dawgs.
Miller had another injury at the close of the 2018 season, this time to his hamstring. He worked tirelessly under Allen’s direction to be able to play in the national championship game versus Clemson, but he was unable to do so.
“They simply weren’t going to throw him out there at 70%,” Miller said. “And Nick goes along with everything Jeff says.” “As a parent and former NFL player, I’ve always admired how they went about making that choice. In that game, they needed Christian (a fourth-round selection of the Carolina Panthers in 2019) and his pass-rushing abilities, but they weren’t willing to risk his future.”
Dickerson, a freshman offensive lineman with the Philadelphia Eagles, tore his ACL last season in the SEC title game and missed the playoffs. Dickerson saw the Allen that has endeared him to everyone of the players and coaches that have been through the program at that point.
“Alabama has had a lot of upheaval, but Jeff Allen has been a constant for the players and coach Saban,” said Dickerson, who was selected in the second round of the NFL draft. “I think there’s a misperception at Alabama that if a player goes injured, they immediately call up the next five-star kid who’s ready to take his position and you’re forgotten about.” That is not the case.
“When I got wounded, Jeff and everyone else treated me the same way.”
Allen, like everybody who has ever worked under Saban, has had his share of “ass-chewings,” though he quips that he learned a long time ago to listen to what Saban said rather than how he said it.
“Anything’s generally Jeff’s fault if it occurs,” McElroy said. “But he simply lets it go because he knows his coach and his teammates adore him. Someone needs to be the lightning rod, and Jeff happens to be so firmly planted on the ground that he can handle anything.”
And, like Saban, Allen, who was voted college athletic trainer of the year by two separate groups in 2018 and 2019, is on the cutting edge of trying to discover any type of advantage.
Allen invented the portable injury tents that can currently be seen on the sidelines of NFL and college games. Along with then-Alabama engineering students Jared Cassity and Patrick Powell, he founded Kinetic Sports to build tents that would give quick medical treatment and privacy instead of returning the athlete to the locker room. If a player is not gravely hurt, he will be able to return to the game sooner.
Allen is eager to give credit to his whole team of trainers. When Saban arrived, Ginger Gilmore-Childress and Jeremy Gsell were already on the Alabama sports training staff.
“We’ve seen people come back from injuries and done so well, but Jeff Allen isn’t one of them,” Allen said. “It’s more about our whole program and the mentality of these students than it is about myself.”
Allen’s unwavering commitment to sports medicine has earned him the respect of past and present Crimson Tide athletes. Crimsontidephotos/UA
Allen originally felt compelled to pursue a career as an athletic trainer while visiting the Johnny Majors football camp in 1988. He tore his ACL on the grass of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium, which is one of Alabama’s oldest rivals.
“That’s how it all began for me. I had a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve “Allen grew up in Marietta, Georgia, as an SEC football enthusiast, attending Georgia games with his grandpa and Tennessee games with his father.
Former Alabama assistant coach Lance Thompson, who is currently the inside linebackers coach at Florida Atlantic, was his lone connection to Saban. When Saban hired Thompson on his first staff, Allen and Thompson were coworkers at UCF. Saban needed a trainer as well, and Thompson knew exactly who to call.
Thompson described Jeff as “the Nick Saban of football trainers.” “He’s the greatest in the industry at what he does, and he probably has a bigger influence on the team’s performance than any other trainer in the nation.”
Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain, who was the offensive coordinator for Alabama’s national championship teams in 2009 and 2011, said he’s worked with few staff members who can read a locker room like Allen can.
“That’s because the students have a lot of faith in him,” McElwain said. “He can read the vibe in the locker room before practice and games, and he gives coach Saban some pretty useful information.”
While Saban’s on-field staff has produced a slew of assistants who have gone on to become head coaches (Kirby Smart, Steve Sarkisian, Lane Kiffin, Mel Tucker, McElwain, and Locksley, to name a few), Allen has remained at Alabama.
That isn’t to say he hasn’t had previous chances. Even’s been chased by NFL teams on many occasions, and he pondered one offer he received in 2018. He won’t name the squad, but he does confess that it was “close.”
Following the 2012 season, Allen, his wife Mary, and their daughter, Makennah, who will graduate from Alabama in May, made the same decision that Saban did when Texas made a strong run at him. She’s a Crimsonette, the band’s twirler.
“This is where we want to be, and why would you want to leave when you’re among guys like Coach Saban who make you better?” Allen remarked.
Saban, the one with the statue, said there’s no way to replace a person like Allen, who spends more time with the players than anybody else.
“That’s a fantastic location to get a sense of where everyone is, where their attention is, and whatever else is going on,” Saban said. “I trust Jeff with it as much as I trust him with anything because I know that if he comes to me with anything, we have to act quickly.”
Because of their friendship, Allen probably receives more inquiries than anybody else about how long Saban, 70, will continue to coach. Allen doesn’t have a crystal ball, but he’s known Saban long enough to know that his boss takes pride in his work and, more significantly, likes making an influence on others.
“It’s a calling,” she says. Allen said, “It’s not work for him.” “A few weeks ago, one of our players from the 2011 squad returned, a man who suffered and had difficulty after problem while playing but persevered. He kept mentioning how much coach had helped him. I forced him to see Coach, and it was clear how much that mattered to him.
“People misunderstand him and believe he just cares about winning. For him, it’s more complicated than that.”
In any case, Allen’s most important responsibility — at least in the perspective of Alabama supporters — may be to retain Saban coaching for the foreseeable future. They get one other, they understand each other, and they’re all really determined to keep the Alabama football engine running.
“I owe him a lot of gratitude and want to assist him in any way I can to continue to train and assist him in finishing the way he wants to finish, which I hope will be a long time,” Allen said.
If that’s the case, Allen may one day be honored with his own statue.
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