For Willie Allen, the reason was simple.
“It’s home,” Allen said.
And it’s why Allen, the John Curtis offensive lineman rated as one of the nation’s best at his position, verbally committed to play at LSU on Thursday morning.
“It’s just 45 minutes away and I felt really comfortable there,” said Allen, moments after pulling an LSU cap out of a bag and placing it on his head in the school lobby.
Allen is rated a four-star recruit by 247sports and the nation’s No. 15 tackle by the same recruiting service. Allen was selected to the prestigious Under Armour All-American Game after helping the run-oriented John Curtis offense rack up 2,622 rushing yards and average 5.64 yards per carry.
“His athletic ability is obvious,” said J.T. Curtis, Allen’s high school coach. “He’s a guy who’s 6-foot-7, 310 pounds, who can move his feet. More importantly, they are getting a good person. His priorities are in order.”
Allen can credit some of that footwork to basketball, his first love. He still plays basketball for the Patriots, but it’s his ability on the football field that had college coaches from all over the country trying to lure Allen.
His final five choices were LSU, TCU, Auburn, Georgia and Ole Miss.
Allen called LSU coach Les Miles moments after announcing his decision.
“Coach Miles was happy and said I’m the missing piece to the puzzle,” Allen said. “It’s a good feeling. But I just have to get there and work hard. Nothing is going to be given to you.”
He is the 21st player to commit to LSU’s 2016 class. For now, he’s just glad to have finished the recruiting process.
“It’s unbelievable to have it over with,” Allen said. “I can actually enjoy my senior year now. It was fun in the beginning, but at the end you’re getting phone calls every night so I’m happy it’s over.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” Allen said. “Schools like TCU recruited me really hard. But it was eight or nine hours away.”
Allen started every game the past three years at Curtis. He’d like to continue that trend once he arrives in Baton Rouge.
“I plan on going in and playing as a true freshman, but if I have to redshirt, I’ll redshirt,” he said. “I just want to work hard every summer to get better.”
His high school coach is confident Allen will do just that.
“He is going to go there and be ready to play,” Curtis said. “He will report to fall camp ready to go. (He’s) no prima donna. He will be a guy, if he has an opportunity to play early, he’ll be excited. If he doesn’t and redshirts, he’ll take full advantage of that academically and athletically. They are getting a guy who is going to be a consummate team player and I think that’s what coach Miles is looking for.”
He can make his verbal commitment official on Feb. 3, national signing day.
“The recruiting process is over now,” Allen said. “Stars don’t mean anything. You have to get in there and work hard.”