By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Jaden Allen, a senior tight end and defensive end at Washington Township High School, has some pretty big shoes to fill. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound NFL kind, to be exact.
Allen’s older brother, Julian, played college football at Southern Mississippi before being drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2018. Jaden Allen recently finished up his senior season with the Minutemen and is committed to Utah State University, and said he hopes to follow his brother’s path to the NFL someday. He said he began his high school career as a tall, skinny kid, but knew eventually he’d fill out, just like his older brother, who is now 26 years old, did.
“I wouldn’t say I felt pressure, but I always made it a goal for myself to follow in his footsteps, take in all the things he did to help his career and make myself better. He and I have been training together for a while now, and seeing the things he did helped set me up on a good path,” Allen said. “I knew that from seeing older kids that you’re going to grow throughout high school, and you get into the weight training program and stuff like that. So, I knew size would be put on. I felt like I had a lot of potential (when I started high school). My freshman year had a very positive impact on me and created a lot of confidence, just getting that first year under my belt and seeing what high school football was like. It was a great year for me. I played freshman football and played a few JV games toward the end of the year. The last game we dressed for varsity, against Williamstown on Thanksgiving. It was a little intimidating but it was an awesome experience getting to see it first-hand on the sideline.”
“He’s a big boy and a good athlete. He comes from a football family. His brother graduated in 2012 and had a little bit of a different high school career. He was a tall, lanky freshman, a third-string kid, junior year he broke his wrist, so he didn’t really play for us until his senior year and then ended up going to Lackawanna before transferring to Southern Miss, and got picked up by the Browns. Jaden is kind of a different breed. He was similar to his brother as a freshman, tall and lanky, but he has probably put on about 85 pounds over the last four years. He’s been a three-year guy for us on both sides of the ball as a tight end and defensive end,” said Township head coach Mike Schatzman. “This year he’s really come into his own. He’s very confident and very athletic for his size. He has the strength, the size and the speed to be able to disrupt things defensively, and offensively, he’s a bear to get down for average secondary kids. He looks the part, that’s for sure, and he’s really worked on his game the past couple of years. I wouldn’t say he’s naturally gifted where he’s been dominating since his youth days, he’s more of a guy who has continually gotten better by putting in a ton of work.
“(As a freshman) the pedigree was there and the potential was there, and we saw glimpses of it,” Schatzman continued. “He had that frame we knew was going to fill out once we got him into the weight room on a more consistent basis. But it’s been not only the things he’s done with us in the offseason but what he’s done on his own, and that has separated him from being a good player to being a really good player.”
Four years ago, Allen didn’t even garner a mention on the Washington Township football varsity roster. But he knew if he worked hard and put the time in, eventually he’d get his shot. And he began to see early on that he was on the right track.
“Going into my sophomore year I was repping the twos, second-team on defense, leading up to our first game. And I noticed that during practice I was showing out — I was giving my teammates work. I was on the scout defense going up against the starting offense, and I could see myself excelling every day in practice, getting off blocks and making tackles,” he said. “And I was just a 170-pound sophomore playing defensive end. Inside my mind I felt like I was doing well, I could hold my own and I belonged at this level. It was all about just building confidence, and once I built confidence I just put my head down and kept working.”
What’s even more impressive than Allen’s size now of 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds is the ownership he and his fellow seniors have taken to start putting the building blocks in place for a more competitive football program at Washington Township. Three years ago the Minutemen were just 2-8, but this year, despite being just 2-2 in limited game action, they showed signs of taking things to the next level. They beat Shawnee and Eastern and only lost by one score to a very good Kingsway team that was ranked in Glory Days Magazine’s Best 11 earlier in the year.
“I love every second of this. I love being under those Friday night lights. We’ve taken our lumps throughout the years, but this year we had something special going on,” Allen said. “The leadership on this team and getting everybody bought in has been great. This year, the team we have is so different than in past years. Everybody bought in and we wanted to win, bad. I think about this program every day. I set a goal for myself freshman year that I wanted to leave this program better than when I found it.”
That has been the mantra for not only Allen, but the entire program under Schatzman and his staff. Leave the program better than you found it. Sounds simple, but it echoes a long-term commitment to doing the little things that it takes to become a winning program. He’ll no doubt bring that same attitude to the next level, where he projects as a tight end.
“Overall, I’m just a football player, and I know you hear that a lot from other kids. I love defense, I really do, and I feel defense comes more naturally to me, but I just love the game, honestly,” Allen said. “I’m super excited (for college). I’m focused on finishing out my senior year strong, leaving this program better than when I found it, setting the young guys up for success next season, but I can’t wait to get out (to Utah State) and get to work. This is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life.”
“He’s a great kid, a high character kid. He’s a captain for us and he’s very good around the guys. He has good energy about him and he’s a humble kid. He does all the right things. Teachers love having him in class. He’s probably more mature than a normal 17- or 18-year-old,” said Schatzman, who said Allen was also recruited by the likes of Navy, Army, Temple and Connecticut. “He’s definitely a Division I football player. He has all the intangibles.”
Allen, who recently turned 18 years old, said he’s going to miss his time in the Minutemen program, which has made a profound impact on his life.
“The relationships and the bonds you create, (high school football) truly is a brotherhood. You’re around the coaches every day and we look at them as father figures. Being able to have people like that in your corner is an awesome feeling. It’s sad to think about (my career ending) but we just have to make the most of it. We’re blessed to be able to play football this year under the circumstances and we’re just trying to make the most of it,” Allen said. “Township is a great school and I’ve created some relationships in this town that will last a lifetime. Everything about it, it’s a great school, and the football program — say what you want, we’ve taken our lumps, but we have something special going on. This school has it all, a great weight room, two turf fields, great equipment. We’re going to be a great program soon.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays