PARK CITY – The loudest cheers in the Wichita Wild’s runaway 52-14 victory over the Kansas Coyotes on Saturday night came on the final touchdown.
That’s because it was scored by Junior Allen, the diminutive 5-foot-7 running back and former NAIA All-American at Bethany.
After the Wild had improved to 7-2 by beating the winless Coyotes, fans of all ages waited more than 30 minutes to take a picture with Allen and have him sign an autograph.
“He’s the most popular dude on the team,” said Michael Wormley, an offensive lineman who rooms with Allen. “Look at him, he’s got his own section over there.”
But Allen is more than just a fan favorite because of his size. He serves as an inspiration to anyone he comes across, as the 25-year-old’s gregarious personality allows him to relate his challenges to anyone.
“I’m an underdog story; I’m proof of it,” Allen said. “I want kids to understand that you don’t have to be big, you don’t have to be skinny, it’s all on you. If you’ve got the heart and passion to do something, then go do it.”
It’s by that creed in which Allen lives his life, whether it was in the classroom, on the football field, or elsewhere.
Inevitably, Allen encountered football coaches who dismissed him solely for how tall he stood. He’s been hearing that since his high school days. Even when he joined the Wild, Allen said that a member of the coaching staff doubted him as a football player.
“Every single time somebody told me I couldn’t do something, I went and did more than they even expected,” Allen said. “I love that. I love that pressure. It makes me want to go.”
While he is listed at running back on the roster, Allen has made an impact on the Wild as a receiver and a threat on special teams. On Saturday, he scored his third rushing touchdown of the season.
“It’s amazing because each and every day he wants to find a way to get better,” said Charles Johnson Jr., a receiver and another roommate of Allen’s. “It can be at running back, or running routes as a receiver, or on kickoffs. Every day he wants to get better.”
At each level of football, Allen has thrived when he was told he couldn’t succeed at that level. It’s not surprising or discouraging to him when he tells coaches he wants to someday play in the NFL.
“If I stay patient and stay working hard and stay on my grind, who knows who’s going to call me?” Allen reasoned.
But if his career aspirations don’t pan out on the football field, Allen will still find a way to make a difference.
Allen has developed a passion for helping children in need. He wants to coach, to motivate, to help kids that have been told they are destined to fail, just like he was growing up.
If there is anyone that is proof of that, Allen said, it’s him.
“I want kids to understand that it’s okay to have someone on their side and not everyone is against you,” Allen said. “I feel like in this world, in this generation right now, you don’t see that a lot. Everybody is greedy, everybody wants to help themselves. I feel like that’s what makes me different. I want to help these kids.”
W – Hubbard 1 run (Lacavo kick)
W – Kassanavoid 17 pass from Hinds (Lacavo kick)
W – Daniels 40 pass from Hinds (Lacavo kick)
W – Hubbard 16 run (Lacavo kick)
W – Hemphill 8 pass from Hinds (Lacavo kick)
W – Lacavo 22 field goal
K – Downey 24 pass from Jennings (Doefler kick)
W – Hinds 1 run (Lacavo kick)
K – Davis 30 pass from Cavanagh (Doefler kick)
W – Allen 2 run (Lacavo kick)
Rushing – Kansas, Jennings 8-25, Phillips 3-4, Wall 3-1; Wichita, Hubbard 17-69, Allen 6-21, Hinds 5-(-2).
Passing – Kansas, Jennings 5-18-2-62, Cavanagh 1-1-0-30; Wichita, Hinds 13-19-0-195.
Receiving – Kansas, Davis 3-46, Downey 2-43, Dennis 1-3; Wichita, Kassanavoid 3-35, Kelly 2-53, Daniels 2-52, Allen 2-19, Baker 2-17, Johnson 1-11, Hemphill 1-8.