PULLMAN — Recent headlines have relayed far too many negatives about the disgraceful acts of pro and college football players. That’s just one more reason why Washington State fans are so thankful to call Jeremiah Allison one of their own.
Allison, a junior linebacker from Los Angeles, would appear to be everything you want a son to be: Charming, intelligent, ambitious and gifted. Lucille Allison loved to brag about her son, but their close bond ended far too soon when Lucille died at 51 shortly before Allison’s first game as a Cougar.
Allison visited his mother daily for months after she suffered a heart attack that left her in a coma for the final seven months of her life. Two years after the death of the woman who raised three children as a single parent in the gang-riddled inner city, Allison is quick to credit his mother for motivating him to excel academically, athletically and morally.
“I wanted to be the flower that grew from concrete,” Allison said. “I wanted to be that motivation to that child who didn’t have those other outlets and resources to feel he could prosper. I was just a product of my community, and I wanted people to know that good things come from where I am.
“How I focused, my mom just kept me busy. She kept me in all sports. I lettered in high school in track, basketball and football. I didn’t have time to dibble and dabble in any negative extracurricular activities.”
After two-plus seasons spent primarily on special teams, Allison made his first starts the past two games and played impressively. In last week’s comeback win at Utah, when WSU held the Utes to just two field goals over the final 50 minutes, Allison led all players with 13 tackles – two more than he recorded his first two seasons combined.
“I just don’t want to let the coaches down,” Allison said. “I mean, they bought into me. They’ve invested a lot of time in me. I just don’t want to let the coaches or my teammates down.”
Allison was heavily recruited after compiling 63 quarterback sacks and straight-A’s at Dorsey High School. He liked the idea of joining a rebuilding program like Washington State, particularly after Cougars head coach Mike Leach made it a point to visit him at his home in east Los Angeles and his high school in south-central L.A. Both neighborhoods have heavy gang influences.
“Coach Leach actually came to my high school and sat in the middle of Dorsey,” Allison recalls. “Dorsey is right across the street from one of the biggest gangs in L.A., which is the Black P. Stones (Jungles) . . . I’m like, ‘Coach Leach, do you know where you are?’
“Another thing was, on my home visit, the coaches came right to my doorstep. They didn’t call: ‘Oh, we’re right outside.’ I live right in the heart of gang territory. They (WSU coaches) came and knocked on the door with all their crimson gear on. Crimson’s similar to red, and I lived in a Crips neighborhood (the archrival Bloods wear red).
“I’m like, ‘All right, y’all.’ It just showed me their commitment and their loyalty and how they really wanted me to be part of the Cougar family.”
Moving from the inner city to rural Pullman required some adjusting, Allison acknowledged.
“My first night out here, I had a hard time sleeping because I didn’t hear helicopters. I promise you!” Allison said, smiling. “And the streets were quiet. I was like, ‘Wow!’”
Allison, an aspiring criminal lawyer, is seeking degrees in criminal justice and political science. He says he never received anything but A’s from sixth grade through high school and now carries a grade-point average of approximately 3.3.
Leach and other WSU coaches have always praised Allison as a person. Now they are also raving about his improvement on the field.
“He’s really explosive,” Leach said. “Smart guy, really explosive, and he’s been right on the brink for a while.”
After an 0-2 start, the Cougars (2-3, 1-1 Pac-12) are on the brink of reaching .500 as they reach the midway point of the regular season. The California Golden Bears (3-1, 1-1) visit WSU for homecoming at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Pac-12 Networks).
Allison says the Cougars “grew up as men” when they rallied to beat Utah 28-27 after trailing 21-0 barely nine minutes into the game Saturday in Salt Lake City. Allison has been acting like a man for years. His involvement in various school and community activities in Pullman has led to his nomination for the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team.
“I always grew up saying, ‘Each one, teach one,’” Allison said. “You never know what kind of effect you can have on a person’s life, so I always want to be that positive reinforcement for certain individuals. When I have time to spare, that’s what I’m going to do.”