A Path As Unique As The Name

Still new to the scene, Illini receiver Geronimo Allison's past failures prepared him for future achievements.

Geronimo Allison, or "G-Mo" as his coaches and teammates know him, is ready to make a huge impression on the Illini faithful on the field.

His name has already generated a lot of attention off the field.

"Every chance people get they want to know how I got the name," Allison said. He insists that there is no exciting reason behind the name Geronimo.

"My mom just wanted a unique name for me. I took it and ran with it."

‘Took it and ran with it' accurately describes his opportunity to play Division I football, a reality that wasn't always a foregone conclusion.

"I grew up in the streets," Allison said.

"It was really nothing in the streets for me. I was always around football so I just wanted to keep playing."

A football player since the age of 10, Allison's NFL dream was in danger of being derailed rather quickly.

Allison was talented but could not stay on the field at Spoto High School in Riverview, FL, due to academics.

"My 9th grade year I ended with a 1.4 GPA," Allison revealed.

His performance in the classroom caused him to be academically ineligible to compete in both his sophomore and junior years of high school. It wasn't until his final year of high school that he was able to compete.

Due to Geronimo's eligibility issues, he was not recruited as highly as he would have liked or deserved. With limited options and a growing passion for the game of football, Allison made a decision to preserve his career.

"Going straight to junior college after high school gave me that opportunity to keep going."

Enter Iowa Western Community College.

"They put him in a position where he has to value football," Illinois wide receivers coach Mike Bellamy said.

Allison thrived in that position.

In his first season at Iowa Western CC, Allison caught 26 passes for 428 yards and recorded two touchdowns. His contributions helped his team win the national championship that Allison acknowledges as one of the best moments of his life.

The production continued into his sophomore season. Allison finished with 69 catches for 872 yards and eight touchdowns.

It was more than enough to capture the attention of the Illini.

"He's played at a great program at Iowa Western," Bellamy said.

"He's further along than we assumed. He has great football savvy, a great personality, and no ego at all. Everybody got exactly what they wanted when we recruited him."

Geronimo chose Illinois over a host of other schools including Kansas State, Iowa State, and close to home Florida Atlantic.

"Home wasn't a big decision for me," Allison said. "I just felt like Illinois was the best fit for me."

Choosing Illinois boosts the Illini's receiving corps but also allows Allison to reunite with former Iowa Western CC teammate and current Illinois wide receiver Martize Barr, something he's taken advantage of.

"It's been great," Allison said of playing with Barr again. "Anything I need and I ask, he always has an answer for me."

Barr is helping Allison adjust to D-I football and the challenges the Big 10 will present. Lying in wait are Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State among other teams. It's a large step up from the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference.

But for now, Allison is taking it all in.

"I'm just blessed and embracing the moment," Allison said.

"Everybody doesn't get the opportunity that most of us get to be here. The decisions I made in the past were the wrong decisions but I learned from them and bettered myself so I could set myself up for success."

Coach Bellamy understands his path to Illinois and makes sure he keeps everything in perspective for Geronimo.

"He's got 18 months of football left in his life unless he has the potential to go further along," Bellamy said.

"It's the same thing I told Martize last year, it goes fast. I think he's embraced that. He took advantage of the opportunity that we had at receiver and he chose the right school."

Allison has a while before he tries to help the Illini to a bowl game, the first in the Beckman Era. In the meantime, he'll work to get bigger so he can combine physicality with his speed and ability to be moved around the field at the receiver spot.

"I definitely plan on building the frame," Allison said.

"The coaches say I have a length in field. So any chance I get, I'm always in the weight room. Once I put on that weight, it's going to be deadly."

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