LEXINGTON, Ky. — Josh Allen’s decision to return to Kentucky for his senior season rather than declare for the NFL draft came less than a week after his son, Wesley, was born. Allen received feedback from the NFL and talked to coach Mark Stoops and teammate Mike Edwards, but Wesley’s arrival made the decision.
“He just changed everything once he came,” Allen said Thursday morning. “That’s another way it humbled me. Everything I do affects him now. I feel like just being here with him also affects my decision and all that. Once he came it changed everything. It made my thought process a little different.”
Allen was likely to be selected in the NFL draft. He didn’t reveal what his draft grades were, but he said they were what he read. One report in the middle of the season mentioned Allen as a potential first-round pick. Allen was the seventh-ranked outside linebacker prospect in the draft and the 124th overall prospect, according to CBSsports.com. That ranking would’ve slotted him in the fourth round.
“Once you read everything — you see first round, second round — you’ve been thinking about this since you was young,” Allen said. I grew up wanting to play in the league and this is just like, ‘I can play.’ At that time I was just like, ‘Ah, man. I’m here.'”
But then Allen told himself to calm down, to breathe.
“Do what you do, keep playing how you play, respect everybody you go against, respect your teammates, respect the coaches,” he said. “Your time will come.”
He knew Stoops coached players like Ed Reed and Bud Dupree — both came back for their senior seasons and were selected in the first round the next year.
Allen knew of those examples, and also knew that Kentucky would return 10 defensive starters if he and Edwards decided to return. Both did, and now a Wildcats defense that ranked 93rd in the nation last year figures to be better in 2018.
“We need senior leadership who’s been there, who’s been in the trenches, who’s been at Kentucky when they were bad,” Allen said. “I feel like we have that now.”
Allen led Kentucky with 8.5 tackles for loss and 7 sacks in 2017. He was named All-SEC second team by the AP and was a Butkus Award semifinalist. But the 6-foot-5 and 230-pound linebacker wants to get bigger and stronger.
“I think I still have a lot to prove,” Allen said. “I feel like at the beginning of the season I came off a hot start. Toward the end I kinda slowed down a little bit.”
It’s been hard for Allen to get steady sleep the past week, but not because the decision of whether to stay or go was keeping him up.
That decision is over, but the sleepless nights might not be.
“Ooof. Yeah, especially when people text me and call me, ‘So what’re you gonna do now?’ Man, I just wanna be with my son right now for a couple days,” Allen said. “Once that starts dwelling I can focus back on the football aspect. But I think just from him being here made the decision for me. I couldn’t leave him.”
Watch: Josh Allen discusses decision to stay at Kentucky
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