ST. PETERSBURG — On the crispest afternoon of the calendar year, Geronimo Allison's routes seemed even crisper.
With double moves, elongated strides and stringent cuts, Illinois' rangy receiver elicited assorted whoops and gasps from the scouts and spectators Tuesday at the East-West Shrine Game workout at St. Petersburg High. Among those watching: Anne and Dale Caparaso, Allison's surrogate parents of sorts.
"He was one of those kids who was finally given the gift," said Dale Caparaso, Allison's coach at Riverview's Spoto High, "and he took advantage of it."
Allison's second lease on a football life has been well-chronicled. Ineligible as a sophomore and junior at Spoto, he dug himself out of his academic crater with the tutelage and tough love of Anne (an evaluator in the Hillsborough County school district).
The result: A breakthrough senior year and junior college opportunity.
"Man, that's my second family," Allison said, nodding toward the Caparasos. "I wouldn't have made it this far without 'em. Miss Anne really took me up under her wing, Coach Cap really molded me into a young man and they really helped me stay focused. Anything I need, they're always there for me."
Yet while the Caparasos' influence isn't lost on Allison, the irony of the whole thing might be: The same village it took to rescue him is essentially the one he's trying to escape.
Should an impressive week in St. Petersburg parlay into NFL employment for Allison (6 feet 3, 197 pounds), his first order of business will be to support his family of five that includes a single mom, brother and grandparents.
All still reside in Allison's boyhood three-bedroom, one-bathroom house in Progress Village, the modest east Hillsborough neighborhood in Spoto High's geographic zone. Melissa Glover, Allison's mom, recently was laid off from her job at an insurance company.
"Growing up, it was just all of us in that house," said Allison, who earned a Shrine Game invitation after a prosperous senior season (65 catches, 882 yards, three touchdowns) with the Illini. "Me and my mom right now share a room, share a bed. My brother has his own bed and my grandparents have their room. It's tight for us right now."
Hence the reason this week — when winning over NFL scouts is paramount and winning the game is a byproduct — represents a critical juncture in Allison's football life.
He put plenty on tape in two seasons at Illinois, where he totaled 106 catches, but a highlight reel is only one component. This week, scouts watch him up close, observe his practice habits, assess his body language, even conduct informal interviews.
"I think there are a lot of questions that scouts have right now," said Allison, who helped lead Iowa Western Community College to a juco national title in 2012. "And I'm just trying to fill all the gaps that I can, and just continue to play football."
Count Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty — a West teammate — among those who suspect Allison will continue playing for some time.
"He's a stud, man," said Doughty, who threw for 461 yards in the Hilltoppers' 45-35 Miami Beach Bowl win against USF in December. "Very long. … He's got long arms, the guy's a really good player. I'm really excited that he's on my team. I think we're going to do some pretty special stuff on Saturday."
A solid Shrine week likely will parlay into private workouts, more interviews, perhaps even a phone call in the NFL draft's waning rounds. Logic suggests Allison's build and backstory will prompt some team to invest in him.
He knows where he'll invest his initial check: into a new car for his mom.
"That's probably the first thing I'll do for her," he said. "Then it'll be getting 'em out of our neighborhood."
Contact Joey Knight at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.