Oct. 31, 2012
As a senior offensive lineman and leader for the Black Knights, Frank Allen, number 79, wants to make sure he leaves behind a legacy for his teammates at West Point.
Standing at 6'4" and weighing in at 261 pounds, Allen has not only become an anchor on the offensive line but a team leader as well. Allen has started all seven games this season and has been a part of the starting offensive line since 2010. He has competed in the last 32 of the last 33 Black Knight outings.
As for how he learned to take on such a leadership role on the West Point football team, family history definitely has something to do with it. Allen's father, Paul Allen, retired with a rank of colonel from the U.S. Marine Corps, his grandfather Paul Allen Sr. retired from the U.S. Air force with a rank of lieutenant colonel and his mother Pat's grandfather served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
"Family members in the military were a pushing factor as well as the question of where you go from West Point after you graduate. I'm not saying that any other school is not up to a certain standard, but it just makes you think what if you don't go to the NFL, then where are you going?" Allen explained. The opportunities West Point had compared to other Ivy League schools were a no-brainer for Allen, who claims that being a Black Knight was one of the best decisions he could have made.
It wasn't just family influence that played a part in choosing West Point for his college career, however, as football also played a large role in his decision. Starting on both the offensive and defensive line for Holy Cross High in his hometown of Delran, N.J., Allen became a three-time all-league selection and had earned all-county and all-area honors at offensive guard by the end of his senior year in 2009.
Throughout the decision-making process of choosing which university he should attend, Allen felt that while he could really play football anywhere, it was West Point that made the most sense.
"Sophomore year I knew I wanted to play football in college, and when West Point approached me during the recruiting process I thought it was a good idea for me. Football was the one that got me in here and West Point helped decide for me," Allen recalled.
Since his freshman season, Allen has become a standout player and has become a leader on and off of the field. Overall, Allen wants to make sure the work he does leaves a lasting legacy behind for future Black Knights.
"I want to be able to make an impression on the younger kids," he said. "Hopefully, I play well enough so if someone needs to learn how to do something they can look back at some of the film I've been in and say 'that's how you do it.' Hopefully they can use my technical skill as an inspiration."
Allen's pregame ritual of listening to music and pumping up his other teammates is another role he takes on as a leader.
"The first thing I do is put my headphones on," he explained. "I put everything but the shoulder pads, go onto the field to stretch out and loosen up. Then I come back in the locker room and jam out to music. I put the rest of my pads on and zone out again until game time."
As for his fellow teammates Allen's words of encouragement seem to be a big help on game day.
"When people put their heads down I encourage them to pick their heads up and tell them all the hard work will pay off," Allen said. "That usually helps my teammates on the offensive line stay down to earth and settles their nerves."
When game time comes along Allen says the best word of advice he's gotten from a coach has been to use his speed and strength all at once. "Go fast and hit somebody; that's the big one they say." With an offensive line that has helped establish a team with the best rushing average in the nation, it's safe to say that Allen and his teammates have put those words into practice.
By owning the title of the strongest player on the offensive line, Allen admits that while he may work out too much, weight lifting has been a big contributing factor in becoming a leader and model athlete.
"In high school my first D-line coach encouraged me to lift," he said. "My second coach was a power lifter, so when I was young they showed me cool stuff and I became interested in Olympic lifting. I really enjoy it. I'm not anywhere near where I need to be because at summer training you lose a lot of strength, and there's a lot of certain rules and certain ways you need to be technical. I wouldn't mind trying to compete later on in power lifting.
"It really helps with the line though," he continued. "Everything when I was younger from lifting from football and wrestling helped me become a more effective player. It makes you hit harder, run faster and explode better. Its fundamental work helps on the offensive line and for the offensive guard position."
Through weight lifting, Allen has found that it is hard to pick one athlete who has inspired him. Instead weight lifters who have helped encourage him to build his strength.
"As for inspirations don't look to football players, I've always liked lifting a lot so I look up to weight lifters and people that have had insane numbers in the weight room," he said. "Hopefully I end up like one of them one day."
After starting off this season 0-4 for the first time since 2008, I asked Allen what it was like to have that first win in the contest with Boston College earlier this season.
"For me it felt like all the hard work we put in was finally coming together, it was really satisfying," he said.
And come together it has. This past season Allen, along with 8 other Black Knight teammates named to the 2012 Phil Steele Midseason All-Independent teams.
When asked about his teammate's role on the Black Knights, fellow lineman, Will Wilson, agreed that the hard work and dedication Allen permeates onto the field.
"I would say that Frank is the rock of the offensive line," Wilson said. "His experience is invaluable. When things are going good or bad, he still plays with the same intensity."
While his teammates would agree that he is not the most vocal player on the team his leadership is expressed through his actions.
"Undoubtedly Frank is a leader for us," Wilson added. "He is not so much a vocal leader, but a leader by example. If you just watch him play and how he reacts to adversity it makes you play harder."
Speaking for everyone on the team, Wilson would describe the offensive line's leader as an all around good person and athlete. "I would describe Frank as a hardworking, tough, smart, and unique football player and person."
As his final season comes to an end Allen feels that while he his contributions for the Black Knights have been great accomplishments, the most rewarding part of football over the past four years have been the relationships he's made with his teammates.
"Winning games and having the brotherhood we always talk about will stick with me," he said. "Even though you're not friends with everyone on the team, 20 years from now you can go see a teammate you played with and you wouldn't have to keep in touch and still be able to spark up a conversation. It's all about the camaraderie."
Leadership entails setting an example for others and having the knowledge and character for people to trust you enough to follow by your example. The Black Knights offensive guard not only embodies the definition of leader but it may be one of his finest characteristics. Through his dedication as an athlete and his leadership as a Black Knight, there is no doubt that Frank Allen will leave a long-lasting legacy behind.