Marcus Allen’s son Harrison takes the charge to Dorsey
Everyone is playing in slow motion. For Harrison Allen, who seems to slide more than he runs, this game advances at a different speed for him.
In the third quarter of Dorsey High’s game against View Park on Friday night, the senior running back catches a kickoff and weaves his way through upgraded red and black jerseys as if practicing a ballet routine. As he finally ran around the 40-yard line, his teammates jump up and down the sidelines in a burst of joy reserved for teammates who are just plain special.
“He’s my boy Harrison Allen,” first-year offensive lineman Andre Johnson said. “You’re going to see him on Saturday in a few years.”
For anyone who sees the slightest glimpse of Allen’s run – say, taking him to Dorsey’s first scrimmage play for a 40-yard touchdown – they’d assume he would show up on the college grounds in years to come. This is the conventional way.
But it’s not Allen’s. He pursued a career in fashion after graduation.
“I have the impression that I was expected to be [Division I], go to university, ”he said. “But I just wanna do my own wave… do what I think is best for me.”
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Football is in Allen’s DNA, said Brian Hunter, who drove from San Diego to watch him play on Friday. Allen’s uncle is legendary running back Marcus Allen, who played football at Lincoln High with Hunter and Allen’s father, Harold. The oldest started playing at the age of 8 and was a “Pop Warner sensation,” according to head coach Stafon Johnson.
Yet the heart does not match genes. Allen has a special talent and is having fun, but he doesn’t think football is his future. He ran for 13 touchdowns in his second year at Loyola, but at times found the strict schedule stressful.
“Football is just more of an outlet,” he said. “I don’t really want to go any further, because I’m not serious enough or committed enough to do it.”
At the height of the pandemic, with football suspended, Allen spent his days in a den downstairs from his family’s home. He bought pants, cut them out and sewed patterns together, used sewing machine after sewing machine.
A friend who’s now graduated from Loyola put him in touch with the founders of La Ropa, a trendy fashion brand that has had clients ranging from Rihanna to Bella Hadid. After a summer internship, Allen is now ready to accept a job offer from them after graduation. Since Loyola was a college prep school and Allen had pledged not to attend college, his parents made the decision to transfer him to Dorsey, he said.
He then made another monumental decision – he wasn’t going to play football in his senior year.
“As a parent, as a father, we have had our battles,” said Harold Allen. “We didn’t want him [quit], but he was very adamant about not playing football and not going to college. He wanted to continue his profession.
Johnson, as the school year approached, could hear the whispers. Harrison Allen is in Dorsey now. But he doesn’t want to play anymore.
“I just want to talk to him,” the Dons coach thought to himself. An unusual former backer at USC, Johnson has had his fair share of times he has given much thought to stepping away. After his first year, his grandfather passed away. There for him, offering words of encouragement when Johnson was “in the dumps”, was none other than former Trojan horse Marcus Allen.
“I’m not saying he’s going to USC, but it’s like he’s one of us somehow,” Johnson said of Harrison Allen. “I just felt like I should just have a conversation with him.”
Johnson continued to try to get the word out. Finally, one day in mid-August, a teacher told him where Allen would be in physical education and the trainer tracked him down.
Johnson told Allen he knows the pressures of football. He knew coaches could take the fun out of the game. Johnson just wanted to help Allen rediscover that fun – have no regrets in his final season, no matter what he did after high school.
The next day, Allen told Johnson he would be in training the following week. The first time he touched the ball during a game in the inside zone, Johnson immediately saw a part of his old self in the kid – poise, vision, a strange feeling for the game.
“I looked at the O-line coach, the O-line coach looked at me,” Johnson said, “and I just said,” Every time he comes back it’s gonna get fun . “”
Allen had to be away for a month because of the transfer protocol. But in his three once-eligible games, he has run around 600 yards, Johnson reckons, while supercharging a Dorsey offense that crushed View Park 55-0. In that game, Allen had 185 yards and two touchdowns in just four carries.
“He’s a ball player, man,” Johnson said.
Dorsey’s garish stats and atmosphere might not change Allen’s mind about pursuing his football career or going to college. If so, he, Johnson and his family are simply relishing what could be his final year in football uniform.
“We’re just focusing on trying to support him,” Allen’s dad said. “If it’s gonna be fashion, let’s support it. If it has to be football, let’s support it. In the end, he’s my son first and foremost.