Cougs' Allison gains big brother through loss

PULLMAN- Jeremiah Allison just finished making a powerful hit at Martin Stadium last Saturday, catapulting his 6-2, 218-pound frame into an unsuspecting offensive player. Afterwards, he didn't dance around or taunt. Instead, he lifted his head up and pointed his finger high into the sky. An angel, Allison said, is watching him. Someone he dedicates each play to. Someone, he dedicates his life to.

Gone, but never forgotten.

It's how Allison feels about his mother Lucille. With the first year at WSU nearing it's end for the Los Angeles product, this summer also marks the one-year anniversary that Allison lost his mother. For an 18 year-old, dealing with the loss of a loved one is difficult. In the case of Allison, the bond he had with his mother was especially close. It was one that was well known in the community back home.

But, with the same strong morals his mother raised him with, he's been able to handle the adversity and move forward with his life. And he hasn't been alone in his journey at Washington State.

Dealing with his world crashing down
The date was June 17, 2012. Allison hasn't and won't forget it anytime soon. It was a date he had circled on his calendar for months. He was leaving Los Angeles for Pullman to officially begin his college career.

One more stop, Allison told his family.

He pulled up to a convalescent center to see his mother one last time. He recalls bending over, giving her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Lucille, who had been in a coma since suffering a severe heart attack in December, lay motionless on the bed.

Allison was hoping it wouldn't be the last time he would see her. Unfortunately, it was.

"It was something I knew I had to do," Allison said on leaving for Pullman. "She had a dream of me going to college. That was the last day I ever got to see my mom alive. To this day, it still remains as a huge inspiration for me. I still think about my final moments with her."

A little over two months later, Allison got the call he hoped would never come. After eights months in a coma, Lucille's suffering came to an end. She passed away on Aug. 28.

"It was tough for me and it's still tough," Allison said. "My mom was a huge part of my life and the game of football is something I do now to make her proud. She truly motivates me more than anyone could imagine."

Getting help from a new big brother
Almost every day, Allison said he thinks about his mom and feelings of sorrow take over his mind and body. He doesn't hesitate, though. He reaches into his pocket, grabs his cell phone and searches for "Coach Simmons" under his contacts list. Since the day Allison arrived on campus at WSU, Washington State outside wide receivers coach Dennis Simmons has had Allison's back, having gone through a similar experience two years ago.

Simmons' mom, Tannia F. Franklin, passed away on March 26, 2011. Knowing Allison was going through a similar experience, the offensive assistant reached out to the incoming freshman last summer, letting him know he was there for him if Allison had any questions or needed guidance.

Ever since, the two talk frequently and Allison said the support he's received from Simmons is invaluable.

"With my situation and everything I've been through, Coach Simmons has been a vital part of my life," Allison said. "He lost his mom too and knows exactly what I've been going through. He's kind of coached me through it. I still think about her and miss her, but he gets me through it."

The help Simmons provides is multi-faceted, Allison added.

"He's just a phenomenal guy," Allison said. He's someone that I know I can lean on. He's become kind of a like a big brother for me too. He holds me to a high standard and gets on me about my grades and makes sure I'm getting things done on and off the field. He's a coach, but he's also a disciplinarian. I love him for that."

Simmons, who is participating in his second spring session at Washington State, said he's flattered that he's been able to play such an inspirational role for Allison. At the same time, Simmons said he hopes all of his players know that his door is always open for those who seek guidance.

"I can just relate to him," Simmons said. "I went through the same process he's going through right now. He's been a great kid through it all and he's very mature. Most of my help has just been me being there and listening to him. He'll ask about how I handled different situations and I'll give him advice, but really, it's been him telling me what's going on with him and I've just been there for him.

"My philosophy in coaching is live my life as an example for some of these young kids because you never know what any of the players are watching you do. I want to be a good example not just for Jeremiah, but for all of our players. It would be hard for me to give players direction or advice if I wasn't out there doing it myself."

Moving forward, not looking back
Although there are days where Allison trots onto the Rogers' practice field with a heavy heart this spring, his focus hasn't changed. He arrived to Washington State with a goal of making an impact for the Cougar defense on his mind.

In 2012, the Dorsey High product appeared in 11 games as a true freshman, mostly on special teams, recording four tackles. Those numbers don't stand out as earth shattering, but seeing action in those 11 contests was crucial in his development last season, Allison said.

In 2013 as a second-year sophomore, Allison said he's hoping to to see more action and has used a strong offseason to help his body mature. He's moved from outside to inside linebacker and has gained eight pounds during WSU's winter conditioning program -- and he didn't lose any of his speed.

Now bigger and stronger, Allison has seen the majority of his time running with the 2s on defense at the MIK, and says he feels like he's getting better with each practice and film study sessions he has with new linebackers coach Ken Wilson.

"There's a lot of good talent out here on the field and I feel like everything is progressing for me," Allison said. "Coach Wilson is a good coach and he expects everyone to play their best at all times. The linebackers on the field here make me better as well. It's all about learning the defense and putting it into play."

Simmons coaches on the opposite side of the field, but he's seen plenty of improvement from Allison through eight practices this spring.

"I expect him to keep growing and keep doing what he's been doing," Simmons said. "He's a responsible guy who takes care of business. He's developing good habits for football, but those things also develop good things for life.

"He's improved and at the end of the day, I can identify with him and talk about what he's doing. There's stuff I might not see because I'm not his position coach, but I always tell him if he's not reading things the right way or if on special teams he's doing something incorrectly. At the end of the day you're always trying to put kids to be in a position to be successful."

Through it all, Allison said he's just thankful he's able to wake up each morning and represent Washington State. He chose the Cougs over offers from Arizona, Boise State, UCLA and several others. He said he's never wondered about that decision for a second ever since.

The success he hopes to have on the field this season, Allison said, will come with the hard work he puts in. And when he does make plays for the Cougs next season at Martin Stadium, you can expect the sophomore to continue to point high in the sky to honor Lucille.

"I wouldn't change my decision to come here for anything in the world," Allison said. "Pullman has been great for me this year and this is a place where I can grow as a football player and as a man. All the players are working towards a common goal and we're ready to make strides next season. We're all so close and it's like a family out here. It's something I like to think my mom would be welcomed into as well."

With open arms, no doubt. With open arms.

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