What Paul Johnson meant by calling Marcus Allen 'a program guy'

September 10, 2016 Atlanta - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets running back Marcus Allen (24) rushes against the Mercer Bears in the first half at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, September 10, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. – Not every career turns out the way it’s projected on signing day. Perhaps even most careers.

With no starts and 44 carries to his credit, Georgia Tech B-back Marcus Allen would be a prime example. Still, looking back on his career, Allen betrayed no regret in an interview Tuesday upon the team’s arrival in north Florida for the TaxSlayer Bowl.

“I’d say it was a tough process, just learning and establishing myself,” Allen said. “I went through a lot of positions and learned a lot more about football than I ever thought I would. I’d really say it was just a long learning curve and eventually I established myself and got more playing time. I really enjoyed my time here.”

Allen was a notable member of the 2012 signing class, having chosen Tech over Florida State, Nebraska, Miami and others. He was compared to former Tech B-back Anthony Allen on signing day in February 2012. Part of Tech’s appeal was that the Yellow Jackets were interested in him as a running back, while others saw him as a linebacker. Allen had other reasons, as well.

“It was just the best combination of a great school and a great athletic program,” Allen said.

Allen played only two years of high-school football, having concentrated more on basketball. That lack of experience may have factored in his inability to earn playing time. Low on the B-back depth chart behind the likes of David Sims and Zach Laskey, Allen moved to linebacker and then to wide receiver, where the scenery didn't change much. Transferring was not much of an option, though.

“No, not really,” he said. “I really liked where I was at Georgia Tech and I knew coming in that I didn’t have a lot of football knowledge, being that I only played two years in high school, so I knew there would be a large learning curve where I went, so I didn’t think transferring would help my situation, so I stuck it out, and it worked out for me.”

That attitude made him a favorite of coach Paul Johnson.

“Marcus, he’s been a program guy,” Johnson said Tuesday, in perhaps his most animated response of a brief media session upon the team’s arrival at its hotel. “I tell you, he’s been a great kid. He’s played four or five positions and done, and anything we’ve asked him to do, he’s done.”

Allen made an emergency return to B-back late in the spring of 2015 after injuries to C.J. Leggett and Quaide Weimerskirch thinned the depth chart. As a junior last season, he ended up sharing the position in the fall with then-freshman Marcus Marshall and transfer Patrick Skov. Allen had 35 carries for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Not attention-getting, but solid. Behind Dedrick Mills and Marshall this season, Allen has largely played a special-teams role. He has nine carries for 36 yards.

“We had a really successful season,” Allen said. “I don’t really care if I get any carries. As long as the team wins, that’s all that really matters to me.”

With Marshall’s transfer, however, Allen will play his final game, against Kentucky on Saturday, as the No. 2 B-back behind Mills. And he’ll do so at Jacksonville's EverBank Field, less than an hour from his hometown of Hilliard, Fla. Allen called it important and exciting to finish his career playing in front of family and friends. He is one of several Jackets who grew up in or near Jacksonville who will have heavy local support.

As is the case with most college football players, the NFL is not an option. Allen said Tuesday that he didn’t know what will be next beyond applying for jobs and hoping to put his degree to work.

The outlook is promising. Allen graduated earlier this month with a degree in industrial and systems engineering, no small achievement. Tech’s industrial engineering program is ranked first nationally by U.S. News & World Report. According to the department website (which cites figures self-reported by students), the median starting salary for IE graduates is $68,000. Consulting is a common career path for graduates.

Allen interned last summer with New American Pathways, an Atlanta-based refugee resettlement agency, focusing on logistics and information technology.

“I’d definitely be interested in working for a nonprofit, but I’m still open at this point,” he said.

It would seem he shouldn’t have much of a problem. If he needs a second reference beyond his glowing LinkedIn recommendation, employers can call his coach.

“I couldn’t be prouder of anybody than Marcus,” Johnson said. “He’s the epitome of what a team guy’s all about.”

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