Mike Leach in inner city was huge for Allison
Mike Leach’s willingness to make an in-home recruiting visit to Jeremiah Allison in his gang-infested neighborhood in Los Angeles is just one of the interesting subjects Allison addresses in this week’s 11-on-1, an exclusive Cougfan feature. Eleven questions are posed to a member of the Washington State Cougars football family. 1. You were offered by everyone from UCLA to Washington to Yale to Duke. Why did you pick WSU? Allison: One thing I took note of – Coach Leach actually came to my high school and sat in the middle of Dorsey. Dorsey is right across the street from one of the biggest gangs in L.A., which is the Black P. Stones (Jungles) … I’m like, “Coach Leach, do you know where you are?” Another thing was, on my home visit, the coaches came right to my doorstep. They didn’t call: “Oh, we’re right outside.” I live right in the heart of gang territory. They (WSU coaches) came and knocked on the door with all their crimson gear on. Crimson’s similar to red, and I lived in a Crips neighborhood (the archrival Bloods wear red). I’m like, “All right, y’all.” It just showed me their commitment and their loyalty and how they really wanted me to be part of the Cougar family. 2. You grew up in a single-parent home with crime and violence all around you, yet you had nothing but straight-A’s from sixth grade through your senior year in high school. How did you manage that? Allison: My mom. I didn’t want to let my mom down. My mom (who died shortly before Allison’s first college game) was the person who pushed me the hardest. 3. The time demands on college football players are substantial, but you carry a 3.3 grade point average and still find time to do volunteer work in the school and community, as you did in Los Angeles. What motivates you, particularly when it was so challenging just to survive where you grew up? Allison: I wanted to be the flower that grew from concrete. I wanted to be that motivation to that child who didn’t have those other outlets and resources to feel he could prosper. I was just a product of my community, and I wanted people to know that good things come from where I am. How I focused, my mom just kept me busy. She kept me in all sports. I lettered in high school in track, basketball and football. I didn’t have time to dibble and dabble in any negative extracurricular activities. 4. Gangs have been known to give respect and protection to successful young people they admire who aren’t affiliated with gangs. Did you experience that type of treatment? Allison: I got a chance to meet some of those gang members. Some of them are my friends. That’s the life that they chose. They’re still humans. That’s where they found comfort and love. I mean, I’m not going to look down upon them just because of their decision making …. They do protect you and they make sure no harm comes to you. They see you’re doing positives for the community, and you bring positive exposure for the community. 5. You and your teammates certainly brought some “positive exposure” to WSU football by rallying to beat Utah last week. What did Leach say when he called a timeout and gathered everyone around him after you quickly fell behind 21-0? Allison: Basically, he just relaxed us. He put everything in perspective. Basically, he just said, “Go out and play. Leave nothing in the tank. Play the next play and be better than you were on the last play.” 6. A lot of people would have expected Leach to scream at you, right? Allison: He focused us. He calmed the waters. Basically, we went out and did everything he told us to do. 7. Who was the most excited person in the locker room afterwards? Allison: Coach Joe (defensive line coach Joe Salave’a). Coach Joe is our energy. He’s our motivation. I really admire Coach Joe, because he’s a player’s coach and he’s always in the middle of everything we do. He was “turnt up” (jacked up), as we say. 8. You were limited mostly to special teams the past two years, but you’ve had a major impact at linebacker since moving into the starting lineup two weeks ago. How do you explain the dramatic improvement? Allison: My thing is, I just don’t want to let the coaches down. I mean, they bought into me. They’ve invested a lot of time in me. I just don’t want to let the coaches or my teammates down. 9. Off the field, what’s it been like to move from inner-city Los Angeles to rural Pullman? Allison: My first night out here, I had a hard time sleeping because I didn’t hear helicopters. I promise you! And the streets were quiet. I was like, “Wow!” 10. You’ve been nominated for the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team, which recognizes college football players who take part in charitable and community activities. Why have you become so involved in school and local activities in Pullman? Allison: I always grew up saying, “Each one, teach one.” You never know what kind of effect you can have on a person’s life, so I always want to be that positive reinforcement for certain individuals. When I have time to spare, that’s what I’m going to do. 11. You’re pursuing degrees in criminal justice and political science. What do you want to do when your playing days are over? Allison: Become a lawyer. I want to do criminal law. I love the debate. In my opinion, the courtroom is like a football field, and I’ve got to come up with a game plan.