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Dorsey High football player much more than an athlete

ON HIGH SCHOOLS

At 16, Jeremiah Allison is a straight A student who participates in the school's law-magnet program. By the way, he had 20 sacks last year.

August 17, 2010|Eric Sondheimer

Among the hundreds of high school football players set to begin their seasons after months of preparation and anticipation, the story of Jeremiah Allison's journey to success will bring a smile to your face.

Allison is a junior defensive end for Los Angeles Dorsey who seemingly hugs everyone he greets. Coaches want him to run for student body president. Teachers want him to apply to Princeton and Harvard. Quarterbacks want him to focus on becoming a lawyer so they can avoid being sacked by him.

Even though he turned 16 this month, Allison's achievements are impressive.

Straight A's since the seventh grade.

Twenty sacks as a sophomore playing on varsity.

A 3-0 record in mock trials as a participant in Dorsey's law-magnet program.

He is a leader in the making.

"I feel if I can persuade two people a day to do the right thing, I've done my job," he says.

Allison moved from Minnesota to Los Angeles with his mother, older sister and infant brother when he was 6. He lives in a house in South Los Angeles, in a neighborhood where his mother, Lucille, has forbidden him from catching a bus or walking to the corner store for safety reasons.

"Helicopters go over my house so much I don't notice them anymore," he says.

He spends hours in his bedroom using his computer, studying and reading. That's how he received A's on his last report card in such subjects as world history, Spanish 2, honors English, geometry, instruments (he plays the drums) and honors biology.

"I wanted to be the first football player to be in the band, but to get out of my pads at halftime might be too tough," he says.

He loves debating, which is why he wants to become a lawyer.

"I believe I'm a good prosecutor," he says. "I'm always going at it in a court, a room or class. I'm always arguing with somebody over a point. It could be a simple issue, like a tardy sweep. Somebody says, 'I don't believe in tardy sweeps.' If you're in class, why should tardy sweeps matter? We come to school to learn."

Lonnie Pumphrey, a Dorsey assistant coach who has known Allison since he was 7, said, "He's very respectful of elders. He tries not to debate with adults, but everything is a debate within his circle. He wants to get his point across in an articulate way. I've seen him slow the conversation down, 'Let's debate.' "

One of his best friends, receiver Jaydon Mickens, recalls how he and Allison got into a discussion about characters from a book in English class.

"He did win because he read the book night and day," Mickens says.

But that propensity to debate might be the reason Allison has received an occasional "satisfactory" instead of "excellent" for cooperation on his report card.

"My mom gets on me... There's always that one class," he says. "She says, 'Jeremiah, it's OK to talk, but there's a time and place for everything.' "

His mother, a part-time minister, says, "We go to church, he does his chores, and he listens to what I say to him. I tell him, 'Don't have no baggy pants. Always pull your clothes up. People are watching. You want to be an example. You want to be a leader, not a follower.' "

For two weeks during the summer, Allison participated in a special program where he took classes and slept in a dorm room at UCLA, trying to get a feel for college life. Besides learning about time management, he ran into students who were as motivated as him.

"There were more people raising their hands before I could get mine up," he says.

It taught him how competitive the world can be.

Football has been his passion since joining the Los Angeles Demos when he was 7. That's when he met Pumphrey and heard something from his coaches that he has never forgotten.

"They always stressed the fact you're a student first, then athlete," he says. "I felt if I wanted to succeed in life, I had to get a great education and put forth the effort to apply myself in the classroom."

He's still growing and has reached 6 feet 1, 190 pounds. He wants to take a shot at the school record of 26 sacks this season.

"To me, what's always been unique about Jeremiah is he's been very focused," Pumphrey says. "He hangs on your every word. He loves being coached. I say, 'This can't be the perfect kid,' but he's close."

As Allison continues to excel in football and school, he could face a duel of the recruiters — football and law firms.

"That time shall come," Allison says. "It is a blessing that I'll be able to choose."

Meanwhile, he can't wait to resume the sport he has come to cherish.

"I just love football … to hear the sound of the pads cracking and smell the grass," he says.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATSondheimer

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