By Thomas Sellers Jr.
There were a few times Imari Allen could have given up on his dream of playing college football.
The first time might have popped up his sophomore season suffering a severe knee injury. The next obstacle for the Brighton Cardinal was a wrist injury later in his career.
Limited playing time mounted on Allen’s doubts of ever reaching his dream. But his devotion to his teammates, coaches motivating him, his parents encouragement and having a 6’2, 275-pound frame helped Allen reach his goal.
On Feb. 26 in the Brighton High School Library, Allen inked his national letter of intent to play football at Missouri Valley College with his parents Nicole and Greg Turner by his side.
“It feels great because I really didn’t expect to be at this point,” Allen acknowledged. “But I’m blessed and happy that I’m here.”
Now Allen is the newest Viking, joining Head Coach Paul Troth’s roster in Marshall, Mo. Missouri Valley College is a member of the NAIA’s Heart of America Athletic Conference. Troth came to the Vikings in 2002 and now has more than 25 years of coaching experience.
He contacted Allen during the recruiting process to make his desire known that he wanted the offensive lineman/full back on his team. Allen said once Coach Troth broke down his game with the negatives and positives, he wanted to play for a coach looking out for his best interest.
Nicole said after they made the official visit, she knew Missouri Valley College was the future home of her son.
“I remember the coach asking me, ‘Mom how do you feel?’” she said. “I said, ‘I feel safe with him here at this school.’”
Greg noted the overall visit overwhelmed him for his son’s future.
“We’re pleased with it, although we were hoping for somewhere a little closer,” he said jokingly. “But we’re very pleased with where he’s going. We did the walk through and met with some of the coaches and some of the professors. The environment seems like it’s real good and conducive for learning. They’re already looking at ways to enhance him and make his football game a lot better.”
Greg said Brighton just tapped into his son’s potential. Greg said if his son stays healthy, he will impress the Viking faithful.
“We feel great about the signing because he was determined,” he said. “It looked like some years ago due to some injuries and maybe not all the playing time he wanted, he still stayed focused. This was something he wanted to do. His determination and just remaining focused even when there were some obstacles. He got the tools for success.”
Nicole said her son’s greatest tool through it all has been his faith.
“I think we both kept him motivated,” she recalled. “We’re both believers. We’re both in the church. We’re both strict on God. So we just kept encouraging him, telling him to keep his faith up and continue to pray.
“His junior and senior years, when it seemed like the bottom kind of fell out, he still remained focused,” Nicole added. “He still remained prayerful. He still kept his faith up. When it was all over, said and done, and everybody started getting all these scholarships, he still didn’t give up.”
Working in practice, being used a tight end or fullback, Allen was there for Head Coach Robin Jacobs’ call. He contributions helped the Cardinals win two Region titles during his career including the 2017 Region 8-5A crown.
“I just did it,” Allen said. “It was hard work and perseverance and I came out on top. I had a lot of injuries that I came back from. I’m still kicking and now I’m going to college.”
Before heading off to Missouri, Allen reflected on the success of the best Brighton Football team in school history reaching the State Semifinals.
“It was a surprise because back in our freshman year we were really small and we really didn’t know what we were going to do,” he recalled. “Come our senior year, we’ve all gotten bigger and ended up getting one game from State. That was amazing.”
Now Allen adds is name to the most decorated signing class joining Drew Twisdale to Lyon College, DJ Barker to Rhodes and the quartet of Aaron Alston, Spencer Cartwright, Jordan John and Cameron John to Southeast Missouri State.
“I feel honored for one but I’m just happy and thankful to be in this position,” he concluded. “It was just a mental drive. Knowing how everybody in my family did military. And me personally I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do something completely different. At first college wasn’t a thing that was going to present itself. But I was like, ‘Hi I can do this. I want to do this. I will do this.’”
By Thomas Sellers Jr.