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Allen finished 2009 with 10 receptions for 108 yards. His three touchdowns catches in 2009 tied a Clemson freshman record. The numbers weren't too gaudy Allen, who played alongside first-team All-ACC tight end Michael Palmer.
"I was very surprised [to be nominated]…this is definitely going to fuel the fire for me to go in, game in and game out to perform to the highest level," Allen said at Sunday's media/fan appreciation day.
Seeing his name beside the nation's top tight ends is plenty of motivation for the former Scout.com four-star.
"Being nominated on the John Mackey Watch List is definitely motivation," Allen said. "Being at tight end, I take pride in all aspects of the position, not just the receiving. I feel like that's what the list and the award rewards people for most of the time.
"It's definitely motivation for me to work hard and win the award."
Head coach Dabo Swinney said he was happy to see Allen on the preseason list, but he's more concerned about what happens after 13 or 14 games.
"That's great. That's wonderful," Swinney said of Allen's nomination. "I'm more interested in what it says at the end of the season.
"I'm not interested in the preseason teams are. I'm more interested in what it says when it's all over with, when all the games are played."
Allen has taken the same mindset in worrying about whether or not he picks up the award at the end of the season.
"A lot of people were congratulating me and I was just like, congratulate me when I win it," he said.