Some might say it was coincidence, but I think it was fate that literally minutes before I received the text message from my sister that mom wasn’t breathing I was introduced to Washington State University. I didn't know much of anything about the Cougars at the time, and they had a brand new staff, hired just days before. But on this day I had the good fortune to meet WSU receivers coach Dennis Simmons.
As I look back, it was almost as if my mother was, at that moment, passing the torch from her hands -- as the guardian angel who watched over me for the first 17 years of my life – to the team of guardians who would take me under their wings for the next four.
Even though mom was in a coma, she was able to guide me, in a spiritual way, through the final months of the recruiting process. That’s why, on my official visit to WSU, I instantly connected with the family feel. It was a cozy college town and I knew this was where I wanted to spend my college career.
This was a place that could be home.
Mom wanted me in a safe, nurturing environment and I knew Pullman was exactly what she had dreamed.
When I arrived back in Los Angeles after that visit, I had nothing but good things to say about the Palouse and when it came time to sign my letter of intent, there was no question in my mind I had picked the perfect place.
That was in February of 2012. Four months later, at 7 a.m. on June 11, I packed all my belongings and headed over to the convalescence home where mom resided.
The heart attack had, as the Los Angeles Times wrote a few months earlier, “stilled” this effervescent and caring woman. She was “trapped in a world nobody can penetrate, not even the boy in whom she had placed so much hope."
I kissed her and shed a few tears on her shoulder. I said goodbye and promised I'd get my degree. She so badly wanted that for me.
Lonnie Pumphrey, my long-time coach and incredible mentor, then drove me 1,126 miles north to Pullman.
I would never see my mother on this side again. She passed away two months later.
THIS WEEKEND WILL BE BITTERSWEET for me. I graduate from WSU on Saturday with a double major and Sunday is Mothers’ Day. Somehow I think mom arranged the calendar to line up just right. No day goes by that I don’t miss her, but I can tell you with great confidence that both of us will be smiling, and crying. this weekend.
And I’ll be shedding a few extra tears because this weekend is my farewell to Pullman. Oh sure, I’ll be back to visit many, many times, but this is it on a four-year run that was so incredibly special.
I remember arriving at WSU in June of 2012 and noticing how slow the pace of the town was in the summer. However, I was there on a mission and understood that this opportunity was a blessing. My pace wouldn’t be slow. It couldn’t be slow. My mom wouldn’t allow it, because this was an opportunity to relish and to seize.
While attending an orientation BBQ I got a chance to meet a woman who I had spoken with briefly before I arrived in Pullman: Carmento Floyd.
Mrs. Floyd understood what I was enduring with my mom’s situation and wanted me to know I was not going through this battle alone. Mrs. Floyd’s objective was to make sure my stay here at WSU was nothing short of wonderful. She was always watching out for me, and President Floyd was as well. I will never forget their warmth and caring. It was a true honor to have Mrs. Floyd escort me out onto the field at Senior Night last November.
WHILE GOING THROUGH SUMMER SCHOOL in my early days on campus, I had begun to get the hang of college life and the transition was going smoothly. My first college game, and the first game of the Mike Leach Era at WSU, was set to kickoff in Provo against BYU on August 30. I was going to be suiting up and playing special teams as a true freshman.
But a cloud hung over the thrill.
Seven days before the game, on August 23, 2012, I was devastated by the news that my mother had passed away. This hit me like no one can imagine, but the entire Cougar Nation comforted me in my time of need. Coaches, teammates, classmates, alumni, fans – it was like everyone associated with WSU wrapped me in a giant crimson and gray blanket.
For some, situations like this are detrimental, veering you off course or getting you high centered. For me, the trauma of losing my mom was fuel propelling me to be the best I could be. Mom and my entire family back home needed me to fight on.
In Pullman, I've built many relationships.
Two extraordinary mentors have been Pullman Police officer Doug Anderson and his wife Holli. Along with their great kids, they will be friends forever. I attended every one of their children's events while they attended all my games.
Dr. and Mrs. Floyd did everything to make sure I experienced the family feel in Pullman, including introducing me to my best friend and their nephew, Darren Mitchell.
Coach Ken Wilson and his wife, Heather, recruited me out of high school when they were at Nevada. I will forever be grateful that Coach Wilson brought his talents to WSU, coaching me my final three years at Washington State and turning me into the starting linebacker I became.
My godparents, Koko and Paul Boyd, stepped in and helped me with everything, from attending football games to making sure I had a home to go to when I went back to visit. Their unconditional love will always be appreciated. And I must mention my girlfriend, Mahal Johnson, who puts up with my endless highs and lows. And there is no way I will ever forget the innumerable Coug fans, reading buddies and senior citizen pals I’ve come to know.
Washington State is a special place, one that made me into the person I am today. I came to Pullman in 2012 as a young boy, dealing with the tragedy, and then death, of my incredible mother and in search of the right path. I leave as a 21-year old man who understands what my purpose is in life. Pullman taught me patience and showed me to help people I come across, because that is the Coug way.
And so, this is not a goodbye to Washington State, but a "See you later." GO COUGS!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeremiah Allison started 22 straight games at Washington State over the last two seasons and totaled 175 tackles in that span. In all, he appeared in 49 games for the Cougars between 2012-15. As a junior in 2014 he was named honorable mention All-Pac-12. His community service efforts were recognized nationally -- he was selected to the 2014 All State Good Works Team and the 2015 Wuerffel Trophy Watch List for his work with Habitat For Humanity, WSU Reading Buddies and more. He is a graduate of Los Angeles' Dorsey High, where he earned all-league, all-city and/or all-area honors three straight seasons and maintained a 4.0 GPA. In the near term he looks to be in an NFL mini-camp soon and in the long term his sights are on law school.