Ex-Cats

From 2-star recruit to No. 7 pick: UK’s Josh Allen drafted by Jacksonville Jaguars

Josh Allen: A look back at the Kentucky edge rusher’s 2018 season

Highlights from University of Kentucky football linebacker Josh Allen's 2018 season.
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Highlights from University of Kentucky football linebacker Josh Allen's 2018 season.

University of Kentucky standout Josh Allen will suit up for the Jacksonville Jaguars next season.

Allen, who set career and single-season records for sacks during his last year with the Wildcats, was taken by Jacksonville with the seventh overall pick in the draft on Thursday night.

Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray was the first overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals. Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa (No. 2 overall to San Francisco), Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (No. 3 to the New York Jets), Oklahoma defensive end Clelin Ferrell (No. 4 to Oakland), LSU linebacker Devin White (No. 5 to Tampa Bay) and Duke quarterback Daniel Jones (No. 6 to the New York Giants) were drafted ahead of Allen.

Bud Dupree was UK’s most recent NFL draftee to be selected in the first round, going No. 22 overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers. in 2015. Allen snapped a streak of two straight drafts in which Wildcats went undrafted by NFL teams; linebacker Josh Forrest was UK’s most recent selection, going to the Los Angeles Rams in the 2016 sixth round.

Allen became UK’s 15th first-round selection as part of the NFL Draft and its 17th overall first-rounder in a professional football draft (quarterback Rick Norton and defensive back Rodger Bird were drafted in the first round of different AFL Drafts).

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UK star Josh Allen was picked in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday. Silas Walker swalker@herald-leader.com

He likely would have been chosen in last year’s NFL Draft but was projected to go somewhere in the middle of the draft. His decision to return — about a week before the early-entry deadline in 2018 — worked out.

“It means a lot, man,” Allen said Thursday before being drafted. “Hard work pays off. (There was) a lot of sacrifice that I had to go through to get to where I am today.”

A wide receiver for much of his prep career in Alabama, Allen switched to defensive end in his final year of high school after moving to New Jersey. In his lone season at Montclair, he led the state in sacks and helped the Mounties win a third straight championship.

Allen, a two-star recruit, had committed to Monmouth, an FCS school close to home, and his only official FBS-level offer was from Buffalo (though Hawaii and Kansas were interested, too). Rutgers, New Jersey’s only FBS school, was skittish about offering Allen due to unfamiliarity with him as a prospect.

Then-UK cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley (now at Tennessee) offered Allen about 10 minutes after meeting him, at the behest of Montclair head coach John Fiore.

“A couple of years from now, when he’s making all these headlines and killing it for Kentucky, everybody’s going to be ripping Rutgers over here,” Fiore told the Herald-Leader in Jan. 2015. “They could have had him first shot and nobody would have known.”

Fiore was onto something: Allen played in all 51 games of his college career — he never redshirted — and started 35. He recorded 31.5 sacks in college, ninth most in Southeastern Conference history, and tied Danny Trevathan’s UK record with 11 forced fumbles in his career.

Allen was UK’s first unanimous First-Team All-American selection since Art Still in 1978. He was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year and swept the following national Defensive Player of the Year honors: Bronko the Nagurski Award, the Chuck Bednarik Award, the Ronnie Lott IMPACT Trophy and the Jack Lambert Award.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” UK head coach Mark Stoops said Thursday. “ ... It’s remarkable how fast it’s gone, but again, you just gotta credit him and how hard he’s worked to put himself in this position. He deserves all the credit, and I’m just very happy for him.”

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