Big Plays With High Character

Conversation about the Packers adding a safety in this draft have started and finished with USC's first-round prospect, Taylor Mays. But South Florida's second-round prospect, Nate Allen, is an intelligent playmaker with nine interceptions as a starter.

For all the draft speculation linking Taylor Mays to the Green Bay Packers, the best safety candidate for the Packers might be South Florida's Nate Allen.

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Allen has the total package that the Packers desire, from on-the-field skills (nine interceptions as a three-year starter, including four as a senior) to off-the-field character (3.3 grade point average and one class short of getting his degree in three-and-a-half years).

Allen's seven-city pre-draft tour didn't take him to Green Bay, though he did meet with the Packers at the Senior Bowl. He talked to them again the other day in the relatively routine chore of verifying contact numbers in case general manager Ted Thompson decides to welcome Allen to Green Bay during the second round on Friday.

"I'm ready to start playing football. It's been the longest offseason I've ever had," Allen told Packer Report with a laugh. "Living in the airports and all of that, it's tiring. I was sleeping in the airports, just laid out there. It was good though."

Allen arrived at South Florida as a quarterback after earning all-state honors as a junior and senior in Cape Coral, Fla. With NFL aspirations, though, he knew his height would work against him at quarterback so he made the move to defense.

It was a wise decision. After playing as a backup as a true freshman, Allen picked off four passes as a sophomore, one as a junior and four more as a senior. The strength of Allen's game is pass defense, and being able to get inside the quarterback's head is a huge asset.

"Just knowing how it feels and maybe what they're seeing as far as their checkdowns and where their eyes are looking, it definitely can help you," he said.

Allen comes from an athletic background. His father, Jackie, played basketball in Europe, though Allen was born in the United States. Allen received some offers to play basketball out of high school but he figured football was his best ticket to the pros. He credits his family for where he's at today and for being a highly respected teammate at South Florida.

"My whole family — my mom and dad and my aunt and uncle, Virginia and Bill," he said. "I'm a family guy and they're the most important thing in my life. They've helped me along and raised me to be the man I am today, and I'm thankful for that. I've been blessed to have parents like that and a supporting cast like that."

In a deep class of safeties, Allen is destined to go in the second round. If he's available when the Packers select at No. 56, he'd be a strong option considering how the defense has suffered during Atari Bigby's frequent absences the last two years.

"It's going to be surreal," Allen said. "I don't even think it's sunk in yet that it's really about to happen. I just can't believe it. This is what I dreamed about. Now I'm getting ready to start playing against some of these guys. It's incredible. I'm so blessed to have the opportunity."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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