UK Recruiting

Under-the-radar New Jersey defensive end Josh Allen commits to Kentucky

Josh Allen, a defensive end from New Jersey, has committed to play football at the University of Kentucky. ( photo)
Josh Allen, a defensive end from New Jersey, has committed to play football at the University of Kentucky. ( photo)

A few days ago, the University of Kentucky's newest football commitment wasn't even on the Wildcats' recruiting radar.

New Jersey native Josh Allen was technically committed to play for nearby Monmouth, which competes at the FCS level. The 6-foot-4 defensive end with 4.6 speed had a scholarship offer from Buffalo — and Kansas and Hawaii were prepared to offer too — but Allen's mother wanted him to stay close to home instead.

His high school coach — Montclair's John Fiore — knew Allen needed to go somewhere bigger.

He had tried to convince Rutgers to offer him earlier in the season, but the coaches at the state's only major-conference program said they didn't know enough about Allen due to the fact that he spent the previous three years at a small high school in Alabama.

Fiore had sent his last three highly touted defensive ends to Ohio State, Boston College and Rutgers, and he told anyone who would listen that Allen was the best of the bunch. He also knew that, in most cases, if Rutgers doesn't offer a kid from New Jersey, few out-of-state schools will come in to take a look.

The coach was considering trying to convince the player's mother to let him go to a nearby prep school, where he would spend one semester, gain much more exposure and, hopefully, pick up several major college offers.

Fiore said he was "venting" about the situation to one of his fellow high school coaches in New Jersey a few days ago. That coach happened to have other college football ties.

"Listen," he told Fiore, "let me make a phone call for you."

That call went to UK, and Mark Stoops and D.J. Eliot jumped on the computer to check out Allen's highlights, which were impressive. Fiore also sent UK the player's grades, and those checked out too.

"They were like, 'Coach, what's wrong with this kid?" Fiore recalled. "Does he have a prosthetic leg? Why doesn't he have any offers?'"

Fiore assured them that Allen was "the real deal," and after talking to another contact in the area, Eliot called the high school coach back, told him UK cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley was already in Washington, D.C., and would be in New Jersey on Friday morning.

Eliot said if Allen "passed the eyeball test," UK would want to meet with his mother and fly him down for an official visit this weekend.

"Buy the ticket," Fiore replied.

"You're that confident?" Eliot asked.

"Buy the ticket," Fiore reiterated. "He'll be getting on a plane at 1 o'clock."

Ansley arrived at the high school and just happened to be walking by when Allen came out of his classroom.

"Is that him?" the UK assistant asked Fiore, who said it was. "Call his mom," Ansley said.

Allen's mother arrived at the school, and she was already interested in UK because her daughter, Myisha Hines-Allen, is a standout freshman on the women's basketball team at Louisville.

Ansley met with Allen and his mother for 10 minutes and it ended with a UK scholarship offer. The UK assistant made plans to follow Allen to the airport (NCAA rules wouldn't allow them to ride together) and the high school senior was on a plane to Lexington shortly thereafter.

Later Friday night, Allen called his coach and said he wanted to be a Wildcat.

Fiore told his player to call the coaches at Monmouth, which he did, and then he delivered the news to Stoops.

"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 said. "They could have had him first shot and nobody would have known."

Allen had 22.5 sacks in his first and only season at Montclair, helping lead the team to a third straight state championship. His sack total was one shy of the school record held by Darius Slade, who is now at Ohio State.

Fiore noted that Allen accomplished that despite playing his first three seasons of high school football as a wide receiver — he was all-state at that position in Alabama — and made great strides at defensive end as the season progressed.

Allen had eight sacks in Montclair's rivalry game on Thanksgiving Day.

"You guys are getting a good one," Fiore said. "Our last three D-ends are playing at Rutgers, Ohio State and Boston College, and he's better than those three guys.

"He had 22.5 sacks, led the state. If I had another year with him — like I had with those guys — he would have been a 30-offer kid."