Will Allen might be best known for delivering the devastating hit that tore up Willis McGahee's knee in Ohio State's national championship win over Miami, but the Bucs safety is more caring than his claim to fame might suggest. He sat down with Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder to discuss his many community service efforts, his two college-football-playing younger brothers, his classical piano-playing endeavors and why the Buckeyes will beat the Gators in the BCS championship:
The national championship game is coming soon and you went to Ohio State. Why will the Buckeyes beat the Gators?
I think as a team, we're more disciplined. We're going to make fewer mistakes. And I think we have a coaching advantage, too, because our coach has been here before. He's been in a lot more big games than Urban Meyer has. But I think talent-wise, it's probably the same. It's going to come down to who makes fewer mistakes and who makes the bigger plays. So that's where I think we have the edge.
Seems like Ohio State alumni really stick together. You guys are always talking about your roots and always rooting for each other in the NFL. Why is that?
They really, really preach that as soon as you get there. It's like a fraternity, like a family. We go back all the time and you're always welcome. It's been like that since my freshman year. I always saw guys around who had been in the (NFL) or even guys who didn't play in the league.
It seems like you're always going to be known for that hit on Miami's Willis McGahee in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, one of the ugliest injuries most people have seen. Does that bother you?
Nah, this is football. It was nothing intentional. And he's doing great now. It's just something that happened.
Did you guys ever talk after it happened?
Yes. We've met. I talked to him after the incident and it was over. He's fine.
You have two brothers playing college ball, right?
Steve is at Army and I have another brother, Chris, at Ball State. Steve is a true freshman and Chris is in his fourth year. He's a redshirt junior.
What were they feeding you guys in the Allen household?
Pretty much just football. Nobody else in my family made it as a professional, but everybody pretty much ran track or played football or played baseball.
You've set the bar pretty high for your siblings.
Yeah, maybe, but they're not necessarily concerned about the NFL. I'm sure they would want to (make it) just to experience it. But they have a lot of things they're into. They're kind of doing their own thing.
Did you guys roughhouse a lot growing up, maybe drive your mother crazy playing ball in the house?
Not really. I was always so much bigger than them. It wouldn't have been a competition. They knew that.
Word is you have a couple of pit bull terriers. That sounds intimidating.
No, my dogs are really good. I took them to a trainer and he took care of me. He's got them in check. They're really calm. It's up to me to keep reinforcing what they learned. They're not vicious or anything.
You are pretty busy in the community. Tell me about that.
I tutor and mentor at Academy Prep in Tampa. I work through an organization called All Sports with (former Buccaneer) Tyrone Keys. I'm trying to find my niche. I like working with kids. And if I have time to go do other things, like speaking engagements, I try to do that, too.
There's a lot of need out there, isn't there?
Definitely. I'm working with All Sports in a program at King High School called Quest. It's just to help students who don't know a lot about college who are trying to find their way. Basically, it's a way to teach them the importance of academics, teach them how to conduct themselves in the business world, how to prepare themselves for college, help them with (financial aid). We're going to kick that off in January and hopefully we can reach all the inner city schools and get it rolling. And the cool thing about that is, the guy I'm working with (Labron Saffold), he's in a wheelchair because of an accident. But he didn't let that stop him. He's a real inspiration to me.
Did you have people in your life who helped you in a similar way?
I had many, many people like that in my life. But when I was young, I really didn't pay attention to it. I've been blessed with opportunity. Now that I'm older, I realize how lucky I am. Those people motivated me to be great.
What else do you do with the little free time you have left?
I'm trying to work on my piano playing. I'm trying to get better. I'm about to hire a pianist to help me with it. I started playing by ear when I was a junior in college. I've just been trying to get real good at it. But I need to learn more of the fundamentals. I'm getting there.
Position: Free safety
Height, weight: 6-1, 200
College: Ohio State
Career: All-state selection at Wayne High School in Huber Heights, Ohio; First-team All-America selection at Ohio State in 2003; Bucs fourth-round pick in 2004; 43 NFL games played, with 22 starts; four career interceptions; 72 total tackles in 2006.