Allen's Hard Work Is Paying Off

Allen's Hard Work Is Paying Off

When I first met Johnny Allen it was his senior year in high school and he was mending a broken leg as the starting quarterback for Grenada (MS) High School. The break basically ended his chances for a college football scholarship. But Allen also played baseball for Grenada.

And he did it well enough to garner one scholarship offer and attention from several other schools.

"Out of high school, I had a scholarship offer from Delta State, Ole Miss sent me a few letters and I talked to them a few times on the phone, and Southern Miss sent a few letters," said the personable Allen.

While he could have taken the offer from Delta State, he was looking for the chance to play on the D-I level. Because of that, he took the junior college route for the next two seasons in the hope that a D-I school or two would come with an offer in-hand.

"I felt like I had a shot at playing at a higher level against some better competition, and I felt like junior college was the way to go if I wanted to play Division-I," said Johnny Allen, who wound up at Pearl River Community College after being granted his release by Holmes Community College, the junior college that had the rights to him out of high school.

He had a fairly good two-year career at PRCC, but the D-I offers he was hoping for never came.

"In junior college I got a call from UAB, I talked to Kansas State and Nebraska, but I didn't get one scholarship offer," said Allen, who played catcher as a freshman and center field as a sophomore while at PRCC.

Allen decided to give football a shot as a walk-on at Mississippi State, but something in him told him he should continue his dream of playing college baseball. And what better place to play it than at Mississippi State.

"I was going to play football again, but something just hit my heart and I wanted to play baseball," said Allen. "So, I went to (Mississippi State head baseball) Coach (Ron) Polk and we talked about a few things. And luckily I ended up where I am now."

But ending up where he is now wasn't as easy as it seems because when you are a walk-on at Mississippi State you have to earn that privilege. So, he, like all the other walk-ons, had to survive what Coach Polk likes to call roster decisions. And waiting to see if you make it past each decision isn't an easy thing to do.

"It is definitely tough," said Allen. "It is a day-to-day struggle. You want to perform your best, but, at the same time, you don't want to press too much because you don't want to put too much pressure on yourself."

And, after his first day at practice, Allen wasn't even sure if he was going to make it past the first day.

"The first day out there we were hitting in the cage and (MSU pitching) Coach (Russ) McNickle was throwing to us and the first three pitches he threw I swung straight through them and missed," said Allen with a smile on his face. "After that, I told myself something had better change or I was going to be watching baseball the rest of my life."

One of the Bulldog veterans helped him work through the pressure of walking on.

"The guy who really brought me along was Chad Crosswhite," said Allen. "He kind of took me under his wing and told me that I have plenty of potential and that I just needed to relax and play how I knew to play."

He started out as a primary outfielder and secondary catcher when practice started. Playing dual positions made it even tougher on the youngster, but Allen was up to it. He simply put in extra work.

"It was hard at first because there were something like 15 catchers and they would always go in and do drills and I was out in the outfield knowing that I could use some extra work behind the plate," said Allen. "But I was a walk-on and understood that. So, I had to do stuff on my own by watching the drills that they did and come up here at night with some of the guys on the team and do the drills they were doing in practice."

Luckily Allen was moved to one position - catcher - very quickly in the fall.

"After about two weeks, they switched me over to catcher," said Allen.

And that's when his hitting really took off. By the end of fall practices, he had hit 3 home runs, 2 doubles and 2 triples while batting .343 in 35 at-bats.

And because of that, it looks like he will have a chance to be a factor during the upcoming season.

"Coach Polk told me in my (fall) exit meeting that I wasn't going to redshirt," said Allen. "He mainly wanted me to keep playing the way I was, keep progressing, keep working on my swing, trying to make it a little shorter. And he said I would get to see some playing time."


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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