When Henry A. Wise High School football coach DaLawn Parrish met Marcus Allen, the coach immediately thought of the Pro Football Hall of Fame running back who shares the same name.
“Are you the real Marcus Allen?” Parrish asked.
“I'm better,” Allen replied.
“OK, we'll see,” said Parrish, who quietly appreciated the youngster's confidence.
So far, Allen has done all he can trying to prove his bold statement correct. The junior holds scholarship offers from University of Maryland, University of Pittsburgh, Duke University and Old Dominion University.
“I had the confidence because I'm the type of guy that's going to always going to think I'm better than someone,” said Allen, who will help lead a dominant defense against Meade in a 4A state semifinal at 1 p.m. Saturday at Wise. “But I'm not trying to be conceited or cocky or anything. I'm just a confident person.”
That confidence took a hit last season, Allen's first on varsity. Parrish saw the intelligence of Allen — who enjoys reading and considers his favorite book “To Kill a Mockingbird” — and made him Wise's free safety. There was only one problem.
“I had no clue how to play safety,” Allen said.
Allen grew up playing linebacker and if starting on varsity as a sophomore wasn't enough, learning a new position made the challenge even greater.
“I was pretty nervous because it's just you back there,” Allen said. “If you make a bad play, everybody's going to think it's you.”
To top it off, Allen played the entire season through a groin pull. Allen wanted to prove to his coach that he belonged starting on varsity, that he could handle his new position and that he was better than the “real” Marcus Allen. So, the Wise player didn't miss any games.
“I rested during the summer,” Allen said.
Through all the obstacles, Allen — who leads Wise this season with eight pass breakups and ranks fourth on the team with two interceptions and 32 solo tackles — has become the type of safety Parrish envisioned all along.
"He delivers a blow when he gets to the football," Parrish said. "He's like a linebacker in the secondary."
And when everyone thinks of the “real” Marcus Allen, Wise's Marcus Allen doesn't mind.
“I like it because they think I'm a star before they even see me because of my name,” Allen said. “So, they're going to come out and try to see if I'm good. So, I just show them a show.”