By Terry Dinan
In an era where the temptation of earning millions of dollars in professional sports often outweighs the benefits of earning a college degree, Zach Allen’s decision to return to Boston College for his senior season was a surprise to many.
With experts projecting Allen as a possible second-round pick, the 2014 New Canaan High School grad and current Eagles star would not have raised a lot of eyebrows had the 6-foot-5, 285-pound junior defensive end declared himself eligible for the 2018 NFL Draft.
Zach Allen. — Boston College Athletics photo
But for those who know Zach Allen best, the decision to stay in school came as no surprise at all.
“He’s always been a kid that had education first,” New Canaan head coach Lou Marinelli told the Advertiser. “If football and making it in the NFL doesn’t work out, he is beyond capable of making it in the business world or whatever he decides to do. He didn’t graduate from high school with a 96-point-whatever average for nothing.”
Allen rose to national prominence this past season as a junior, as his 100 total tackles ranked second in the country among defensive linemen.
Leading the Eagles with six sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss, Allen was instrumental in Boston College’s success in 2017 as a 7-5 regular season record culminated in a trip to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. And although BC fell to Iowa 27-20, Allen delivered an eye-opening performance with seven tackles, one tackle for loss and a sack.
Allen earned an All-ACC Honorable Mention, was named the MVP of the Boston College defensive line and was the defensive recipient of the George “Bulger” Lowe Award, often referred to as “New England’s Heisman Trophy.”
Despite those lofty individual on-field accomplishments and the promise of becoming a pro, the priorities for Allen remain the same as they did four years ago when he signed his Letter of Intent to play for the Eagles.
“We return so many guys next year and it’s going to be a really special team,” Allen said. “We have a chance to do something that hasn’t been done here in a very long time. I definitely wanted to be a part of that. I love BC, I love my friends and wanted to spend another year with them and get my degree. It was a tough decision but I have good people around me — my coaches, my family. We all sat down and came up with the decision.”
Team first. Education first.
With a GPA hovering around 3.6, Allen was a CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America) all-district academic selection and was named to the All-ACC Academic Football Team for the second time in his career. He will receive his finance degree from Boston College next December.
“Zach loves our football program and we are happy to have him back for his senior year,” head coach Steve Addazio said. “Our whole team has great chemistry and they are excited about where we are going. I know how important earning a degree is to Zach and his family, and he will leave BC with his degree.”
“The family has really emphasized academics and he has really bought into it,” Marinelli said. “I remember when he first went to BC and I’d ask him about the girls and the parties and he said, ‘Coach, I really don’t go out that much. I watch film all the time and try to get better, or I’m working out or studying.’ He is a different kind of kid. He has a purpose.”
Those who don’t know Zach Allen might think that purpose is solely to make the NFL, now seemingly not a question of “if” or “when”, but “how high?”.
But again—those who know him best, know otherwise.
“Individually I want to have a good season and help my team win,” Allen said. “I want to prove that I can be a first-round pick. But individual accomplishments only come with team success. It’s really all about the team.”
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From:: New Canaan Advertiser