Will Allen - Steelin’ the Show

Although he’s been calling Miami, Florida home as of 2004, Will Allen is undeniably proud of his Midwest swag. He spent most of his youth in Dayton and moved on to spend a crucial four-years earning a degree in Communications and cultivating his football skills by playing for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Other than the fact that he has traded his childhood bike for what he calls a “conservative” ride (we can safely say it’s indeed anything but), Will has managed to maintain a humble and thoughtful persona that is reflected by his intense devotion to his family, his teammates and his integrity.

Will is occupied by a number of extracurricular activities, including his involvement in the Will Allen Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting positive and rewarding opportunities for today’s youth. When he’s off the field, he also boasts of preparing a mean chicken-and-rice dinner for two, making a habit to cook for his wife of over two-years.

However, don’t let his status as the Pro Bowl alternate for the Tampa Buccaneers in 2008 or current standing as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ newest safety fool you: Will tells us in an exclusive interview that, “Football is what I do, it’s not who I am.” We get the inside scoop on his opinion of everything from who has the best hands in the NFL and the controversy over the Jim Tressel allegations to what sets the Steelers’ fans apart from all others.

Q & A » » » » » »

If you were not playing football, what would you be doing professionally?
PGA golfer.

What do you shoot?
It’s not good, but that’s what I’d be doing. Not good enough to be in the tour right now.

The measure of a man is his ability to …?
… His ability to serve and be humble.

When was the last time you felt intimidated by a player?
I would definitely say that I’m not intimated by a player, but I’ve definitely had doubts going into games when playing against certain teams, just how well they execute and how good they are. Margin of error, sometimes, is intimidating.

What do you love most about playing on a team?
The thing that I like the most about playing on a team is that no one person is bigger and everyone plays their part. Everyone has to help each other out to win. The quarterback can’t do it by himself; wide-receiver can’t do it by himself; offensive line, defensive line – everyone has to use each other to be successful.

Do you feed off of stress and opportunity? When it’s all on the line, do you want it to be on your line?
I would say so. You’re not a competitor if you’re just out there and going through the motions. But whenever you get a chance to make an impact and whenever you get a chance to make a big play, you thrive off of that.

What is something Columbus needs more than it will admit?
It’s hard to say because Columbus has a lot, but I think that they have what they need right now.

What do you truly hate?
Deceivers. Manipulators. People who talk behind people’s back. I truly hate that. People who aren’t willing to admit or face the realities. I think that they sometimes manipulate the truth or manipulate who they are to become something different.

Pantera, TuPac or Kings of Leon?
Kings of Leon. (sings) I’ve been roaming around, looking down at all I see.

Last concert you saw was who, when and where?
It’s been a minute. I can’t even remember.

You’re being held in a Mexican jail for mistaken identity. Who gets the first call?
Who gets my first call? My dad because he is the most reliable person that I know.

What are you afraid of?
I’m afraid of letting God down.

What’s the finest compliment you’ve been given?
The finest compliment is that I’m a man of integrity.

Who gave it to you?
Coaches … players … friends.

If you could recruit athletes from other sports to play football, where would you look first?

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I just wanted to make an impact – somehow, someway – I didn’t really have an idea of what that exactly looked like, but I just knew I wanted to make an impact in other people’s lives.

You grew up in Dayton? Where?
I grew up in the city of Dayton and moved to Trotwood, Ohio, just a small suburb outside of Dayton.

One treat in Columbus you can’t say no to?
One treat in Columbus that I cannot say no to is going to an Ohio State game. I can never say no to that – it holds a special place in my heart.

Wild Cats or Any Given Sunday?
Any Given Sunday.

What is your fondest Dayton memory?
My fondest Dayton memory is from the summertime, riding around on my bike with my friends, having water fights, staying out to all hours of the night and having a good time.

When you retire, how do you want to be remembered on and off the field?
I think what you do off the field carries onto the field, and you can’t really separate the two, at least in my mind. So, I think [I want to be remembered as] being diligent and being a hard worker, doing what is expected of me, always being an outside-of-the-box thinker, and not settling, both on and off the field.

Describe your friendship with Mike Doss.
He’s one of my best friends. When I first came to Ohio State, he welcomed me, even though we were both fighting for the same position. He was All-American, you know, and every day I trained to make him better. It helped me grow into the player that I was my senior year – I sat behind him for three years, but we shared a lot of ups and downs, a lot of adversities, shared a lot of great times together, so he’s a dear person to my heart. Besides football, he’s like family to me.

Is LeBron a deserter?
I think at certain times in your life you make certain decisions, and you would like to seek wise counsel, and I’m not sure he did that, but I believe that he made a decision that he believed was right for the time. Whether he is classified as a deserter or not, he has to live up to that, but I think he’s done a lot for the community, he’s done a lot for Ohio. I think that once he gets older, he can look back on the situation and decide if he was a deserter, if he did things right, if he did things wrong. I think that when you’re young, you make a decision and sometimes you make a decision for the moment; you don’t think about the longevity of your decisions, or the consequences of your decisions. I think that this is a learning experience for him.

Equate a season of football to something.
Football is like being in a desert. At the end of it, you know you’re going to reach that oasis of water. You know, it’s hard during camp, it’s hard to train, it’s hard to build team chemistry – it’s such a struggle – but if you can do it, and if you can have success, then you reach that oasis. You reach that water; you reach that island of joy, so I think football is like that.

At the end of the day, football is________.
Football is what I do; it’s not who I am.

Mike Doss said the same thing. He said, “I play football; I’m not a football player.”
He said that? He stole that from me.
Explain to our readers why the lockout was so, well, locked?
It was locked because you have entrepreneurs, who are trying to protect their business, trying to do the best in the interest of themselves, and sometimes they lose sight of what’s in front of them, they lose sight of other families and other people because it is their business. And so, I think that’s why it was so locked.

So how did you unlock it? What was the key?
I think the key was everybody laying down their egos, checking it at the door, and understanding this is bigger than you. Everything that you do is bigger than you. When you have a selfish, narcissistic attitude, whether you are a player or owner, you hurt yourself and you hurt other people in the process. There’s no growth.

Who has the best hands in the NFL?
Wow … Hines Ward. Hines Ward has the best hands. Hines Ward catches everything. He catches everything. And with a smile, he does so effortlessly. He’s great. (laughs) He’s slow and can’t move, but he catches everything.

What’s the most important resolution you’ve ever made?
The most important resolution I’ve ever made was to purposefully make changes in my life. Some people say I’m going to make changes, but they don’t purposefully have the intent to do it. To be deliberate and concentrated on doing that.

If you had to, which Cleveland Brown would you want on your team?
Today? Brian Robiskie because he’s a Buckeye, and I know his character and what he’ll bring to the table.
What was the biggest mistake you ever made?
So many … but biggest mistake I’ve ever made was trusting someone and not having total, due diligence. It was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made, but I’ve learned a lot from it.

What talent would you most like to have?
A talent I would like most to have would be able to collect fine art and very specific artifacts that we have through history. I want to be able to go all over the world, and I think that it is a talent and skill, but it is also a passion. I think that’s something about me I’m very interested in.

You’re walking down death row. What was your last meal?
I wouldn’t eat. At that point, you just don’t have anything to live for, so why would you eat?

Is there anything you would like to forget in the course of your life?
No. I would never like to forget anything.

Can you cook anything? If so, what’s your best dish?
I would say that my best dish would be something involving chicken, but I can really do anything. I can deep-fry turkeys, I can make macaroni, I can make breakfast, I can grill.

Best gift: who gave it to you and what was it?
The best gift is the gift of breathing. To be able to breathe. I think that we take it for granted every day. But the ability to wake up and breathe, to have life, is a wonderful gift.

What is one movie that you could watch every day?
It’s tough. I don’t think I could watch a movie daily. No way I could do it.
If you had to read the same book, once a year, for life?
The Bible.

What was the first poster on your wall?
Michael Jordan.

Greatness is ________.
Greatness is hard work.

Favorite family tradition?
Favorite family tradition would have to be … well, it’s new. Every holiday, or when we all get together, we all play Guitar Hero. We have Guitar Hero competitions, so I think that’s fun because we all get into it. Everybody is all sweaty, everybody’s arms and fingers are hurting.

Bud or Bud Light?
Bud Light Lime.

Any teams you hate playing?

Who was your childhood hero?
Looking back, I would have to say my childhood hero is my dad.

What’s more important: speed, power or vision, and why?
Vision. If you have speed and power, but you can’t see, then you don’t know how to use it.

Do you train with teammates or do you have personal trainer?

Anything that was unpredictable with your move from college to the pro level?
Everything was unpredictable because it was your first time going through it. It would have been nice if you had an actual coach to teach you about what was coming next, but you didn’t, so you would hope that former players would come back and help you with that. But I think that every student-athlete that wants to go pro should consider and look for wise counsel, or somebody to help you do it, but you’re going to go through it anyway. It’s unpredictable, period. It’s inevitable, every single thing.

What was your college major?

Best advice you ever got and who gave it to you?
Best advice I ever got was from my dad and it was: “Think before you act and always act humble.”

The greatest athlete of all time?
It’s hard to say because I like Dion Sanders because he excelled at two sports, but I like Jesse Owens a lot. I also like decathletes, people who can do ten different sports and excel at them.

A leader always ________ and never ___________.
A leader always serves and never controls.

Indians or Reds.
Reds! Big Red Machine, baby. Cincinnati Red Stock, you don’t know anything about that!

In order to have a great game you must __________?
In order to have a great game you have to play free.

I’ve never __________ during a game.
I’ve never quit during a game.

The worst thing you can do in football is ___________.
Worst thing you can do is throw your team under the bus.

What kind of ride are you pushing?
I keep it conservative, but I have an ’87 Chevy Monte Carlo SS with T tops on 22’s.
Did you enjoy growing up in a small town in Ohio?
Dayton is not really small, but I grew up in Dayton and moved to Trotwood, Ohio, when I was in ninth grade. Trotwood is a suburb [of Dayton], though. How was it? I knew everyone all over the city, so it was fun and I had a great childhood, a great time. Just enjoyed my days, and did what I had to do in the classroom, did what I had to do in the football field … hard work paid off.

What was your favorite part about being a Buckeye?
My favorite part about being a Buckeye would be the camarderie, the people that you meet, and the joy that you get from every Saturday. You can’t explain it, you know? It’s just a great, great experience that I had being a student here. This wasn’t even here when I went here, so you can see the growth in the university. I just had a great, great time.

Do you miss Columbus? What do you miss about Columbus?
Absolutely. It’s always growing, it’s always changing. You don’t get to see it when you’re away from it, so when you come back, there’s something new every time. So, that’s what I miss about it. I miss being here and being around old, college friends, or making new friends, or exploring the city even more, and finding something different and new every time. That’s why I enjoy it.

Ohio State fans are known for being passionate and die-hard. What was it like to leave this following and transition into an entirely new fan base that is just as passionate and die-hard about their team?
I played with Tampa first and they are fair-weather fans. If you’re not playing well, then they’re like, ‘Get out of here!’ They don’t really care about you. So, when I moved and became a free agent of Pittsburgh, it was more like being here at Ohio State and being at home because the fans, the people, the communities, people from all over the country, they just love you. “Generational fans,” I call them because their grandparents were fans, and their parents were fans, now everybody is grown and their kids are fans. And we win. And when you win, people love you even more. I just think that they have a deep admiration for the organization and what the organization does for the community and for the players.

Do you feel that you’ve met up to your fan’s expectations?
I think so. I think that we made it to the Super Bowl and we didn’t win, but everybody is still proud of what we did, of making it to three Super Bowls in six years. That’s tough to do, so I think that we’re appeasing their appetites.

When did you realize that you wanted to pursue football seriously?
I think I always wanted to pursue to it seriously, but it was always like, one B. Or one A. It was about becoming a successful man and graduating from college and taking care of it from that side first. Football and sports always came secondary. That’s how my father raised me. Take care of schoolwork, take care of your business first, and sports second.

What does your team value the most? Why?
I think my team values hard work. We have so many guys that put in so much work and care so much about each other. You know, we just care so much about each others’ families, and it’s a genuine kind of care. It’s not fake. It’s very authentic. It’s hard to find that amongst a football team, especially when business and money is involved. So everyone just cares about each other, we go out and play for each other, and we understand that it’s bigger than each person. We’re here to win. Our business is winning. And that’s where we go, that’s what we live by.

Once out of season, where is the first place you go?
Florida. Tampa, of course. I love the weather. That’s home because I’ve lived there since 2004. This is my hometown in Ohio, but that’s where I live now. I have to go back to the beach. I have to go back to the 80-degree weather. You can go to Disney World, it’s like an hour away. I go twice a year! I mean, I’ve been there at least twenty times. It’s like going to Kings Island or Cedar Point because you can pay to go to one park, or you can pay to go to two parks. People travel from all over the world and they stay a week there and spend all this money on hotels and food, but if you live in Florida, you get a discount for living in Florida, so you just go for a day and drive back.
Ohio State fans are probably still talking about that interception you made against Michigan that took us to the 2002 national championship game. What was that moment like?
It was surreal. I can’t really remember it, it’s like I wasn’t really there. It was an out-of-body experience. That last drive, the only thing I can remember is I made a tackle and broke up a play. There I was on the 22-yard line, fourth down, and the only thing I remember is, I looked at how they lined up, and I saw _____ ______ on my side, and I saw wide-receivers on my other side, tight-end on this side, and all I could think about was technique. Make sure that my technique was right. Make sure that I lined up where I was supposed to be, where my coaches taught me to be, made sure I had good vision on the wide receiver and the quarterback. After that, everything was in slow motion. The ball was moving and it was like I could see every single leather piece on the ball. From the time it left his fingers to the time it landed in my hands. After that, everything sped up.

What do you think about the Jim Tressel allegations?
I’ve been tweeting about this and posting on Facebook, but I think that whether he knew or not in the beginning, I think that his motivation was to protect the players. I know how his is, I know how he thinks, I know his character, and if protecting a player is at the expense of his reputation or the expense of him taking the rap for it, then that’s fine. I think people need to look at that end of it. He’s in a position of leadership, so he’s always serving. He’s always trying to help people, so yes, he did conceal information he wasn’t disclosing, but he did it for the protection of his guys. If there was some other malicious or vindictive reason behind it, then I’m sure it would come out. But it wasn’t. It was a mistake. Do we have to own up to our mistakes and be responsible? Of course. I think that he has shown that by missing five games, by taking a $250,000 pay cut, and now, I think the NCAA is trying to make an example of him. He has to live with it. And I don’t think that this defiles his character or makes him any worse of a man because every person on this Earth has done something that’s not seen as right in other people’s eyes, or that’s broken the rules. We’ve all been pardoned, or forgiven, and I think we should examine Jim Tressel the same way. His slate has been clean up to this point and now everyone is looking to take him down. Granted, he has to take responsibility, but let’s be a little more lenient than we have been.