Jeff Allen began a workout regimen in high school to lose weight and impress college coaches. That process that led to an Illinois scholarship offer, four years as a starting left tackle for the Illini, and now a shot at professional football with the Kansas City Chiefs. It is a dream come true.
"It's an unbelievable feeling. I can't really describe it. I was just sitting waiting to be picked when I I got the call from the Chiefs. I know a lot about the Chiefs because my former teammate Jon Asamoah is there. So I'm gonna go where I know someone."
Allen is seeing history repeat itself. He benefitted from Asamoah's tutelage with the Illini, and he expects the same support in the pros.
"Jon was one of the guys who took me under his wing, showed me how to work and how to perform at a high level when I got to Illinois. I see it being the same in the NFL, someone to look to, and someone who can give me advice."
While pre-draft experts disagreed on where he would be taken, Allen wasn't surprised to hear his name called with the 12th selection in the second round.
"Of course I was expecting to go as high as I did. With all the work I put in, I was a four-year starter at the University of Illinois, and I had pretty good film. I was just going through the process, and it paid off."
Despite his confidence, waiting for his name to be called had its confusing moments.
"It's a long process. When you have to sit and wait for someone to call your name, it's really unnerving. You're really not sure when you'll get picked."
Allen was asked what about his game appealed to the Chiefs.
"I think it's being able to play multiple positions on the offensive line. That's one of the things they said they liked about me.
"I feel like I'm a versatile guy and can play multiple positions. If the Chiefs need me to play guard, I'll play guard. Wherever they need me to play, I feel like I can do a job at any spot."
Allen was one of four Illini drafted among the first 48 picks, an amazing achievement for a team barely able to win 7 games each of the past two seasons. Whitney Mercilus and A.J. Jenkins went in the first round, and Tavon Wilson joined Allen in the second round. Allen was as happy for his teammates as himself.
"It means a lot. To have four players drafted in the first two rounds is unbelievable. It's a feeling you can't describe. I'm just so happy for all my teammates. I wasn't surprised. We have great players. If you look at the film, the film doesn't lie."
Of course, that begs the question why the Illini didn't win more games. After going 6-0 to start the 2011 season, six straight losses ruined hopes for a great result. While he couldn't provide a precise explanation, Allen's feelings about momentum changes bear consideration.
"Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. You could see from the start, we started out really hot. It's a game of momentum, and we lost the momentum late last season. At that point, it's kind of hard to pick things back up."
Allen was in his Chicago home with family and friends while he followed the draft. Kansas City told him to enjoy the moment, and they would schedule his trip to meet the KC press Saturday. Allen is ready to get started.
"Hopefully I'll get the playbook soon to I can start working."
Allen will always be a tremendous representative of the University of Illinois.