by Howie Stalwick & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & M & lt;/span & ichael Allan has brought the big time to the small time in a huge way. Allan, a solid but unspectacular athlete during time at Bellevue's Interlake High School, has blossomed into an NFL prospect at tiny Whitworth College.
More than two dozen NFL scouts have found their way to the Whitworth campus to gawk at Allan, who received precisely zero football scholarship offers when he came out of Interlake as a 6-foot-4, 195-pound wide receiver.
"I was not real fast, not real big," Allan says.
My oh my, how things have changed over the past five years. Nowadays, Allan is a 6-7, 264-pound tight end who has been clocked in 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash, bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times in a row and soared 35 inches in the vertical jump.
"He's got all the measurables," Whitworth coach John Tully notes.
All of which begs the question: What in God's green earth is such a physical specimen doing at an NCAA Division III school with no athletic scholarships (a no-no at all D3 schools), playing before small "crowds" in small "stadiums" light years removed from the college football limelight?
"The people I've known and played with and learned from -- it's been the kind of experience I wouldn't trade for anything," Allan said earlier this week while soaking up the autumn sun on Whitworth's serene, tree-lined campus. "I've had the opportunity to play and have fun on the field and meet some cool guys and play with some great athletes."
No regrets about not playing Division I-A football?
"We didn't get all the free stuff the D-One guys do," Allan deadpanned.
C'mon, Michael. As the All-American tight end on a 7-0 Whitworth team that is ranked 11th in the nation, come clean -- run off the endless list of freebies you've received at Whitworth.
"A free pair of shorts and a free T-shirt," he said with a laugh. "I think we got a free hat as freshmen -- but if we lost it, we had to buy a new one."
To top it all off, Whitworth costs about $30,000 a year. Allan is forever grateful to his parents for picking up most of the tab, but he's also taken out loans, washed dishes on campus and worked at various other jobs to try and help with the bills.
"With all the attention he's got, he's still the same guy, which is pretty cool," said Tully, who raves about Allan's work ethic and soft hands. "He's really grounded. That goes back to his family. His mom and dad have done a great job."
The same can be said for Allan when it comes to catching footballs. Allan ranks among the leading tight ends in college football with 562 receiving yards (80.3 per game), and he's scored on five of his 33 catches. Precious few tight ends at any level of football can match Allan's average of 17 yards per catch.
"I'm just glad he's a senior and finally exhausted his eligibility," joked Pacific Lutheran defensive coordinator Jud Keim. "For our conference, he's a pretty special athlete."
Keim had high praise for his team's defense against Allan on Oct. 7, but Allan still had season highs of eight catches for 145 yards in Whitworth's 19-7 win.
"He just made plays," Keim said. "You've got to tip your hat to him."
Keim said Allan's combination of speed, size and talent makes him one of the best pro prospects he's seen in 12 years of coaching small college football. Boise State was the one Division I-A school that recruited Allan, but the Broncos quickly lost interest.
"I sent them a tape ... I don't remember them calling back," said Allan, who competed in football, basketball, track and baseball at Interlake.
Allan admits he would have loved to play before huge crowds on national television at a big school like Boise State. However, Allan says only once did he briefly consider transferring -- and mainly because he longed for the
atmosphere of a bigger school a couple years back.
"I wasn't even sure I would have played football," Allan said.
Fortunately for the Pirates, Allan stayed put. He broke Whitworth's single-season record (held by ex-Seattle Seahawk Doug Long) when he caught 15 TD passes last year, and he broke Whitworth's career record for TD catches (held by Pirate legend Sam Adams) when he hauled in his 25th last week at Menlo College in Atherton, Calif.
NFL scouts "see a real big upside to his game, and we do, too," Tully said. "He'll be a heck of a lot better in two years than he is now."
Allan better be, because if pro football doesn't work out, he plans to use his journalism degree to become (gulp!) a sports writer. Honestly now -- why would a young man with a college degree want to take a job with less prestige and pay than his old job as Whitworth's dishwasher?
The Whitworth Pirates (7-0, 3-0) take on the Willamette Bearcats (1-5, 1-2) of Salem, Ore., on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 1 pm at Whitworth's Pine Bowl. The Pirates, enjoying one of the greatest seasons in school history, are ranked 11th in NCAA Division III. KSBN 1230 AM broadcasts all Pirate games.