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USC's Javorius Allen makes the most of his chance

The tailback has come a long way from rural Florida, and change has come for him under Ed Orgeron, with three touchdowns in two consecutive games.

November 14, 2013|By Gary Klein
  • USC running back Javorius Allen, top, celebrates with teammate Kyle Yatabe after scoring a touchdown against Oregon State on Nov. 1. Allen has seen a more significant role in the Trojans' offense under Interim Coach Ed Orgeron.
USC running back Javorius Allen, top, celebrates with teammate Kyle Yatabe… (Don Ryan / Associated Press )

Ed Orgeron removed his sideline headset during the final seconds of USC's victory at California last week and grasped hands with tailback Javorius Allen.

"It's been a loooong time coming," Orgeron sang heartily in his Cajun drawl.

"Change gonna come," Allen joined in, pumping the coach's fist.

Orgeron and Allen were reciting the words to one of Allen's favorite songs: Sam Cooke's 1964 classic "A Change Is Gonna Come."

Much has changed in USC's program — and for Allen — since Orgeron replaced Lane Kiffin in late September.

The Trojans have won three games in a row and four of five heading into Saturday's matchup against fifth-ranked Stanford at the Coliseum.

Allen's dramatic emergence from the bottom of the depth chart helped spark the turnaround. At Cal, for the second consecutive game, the third-year sophomore from rural Florida scored three touchdowns, all in spectacular fashion.

"Coach O feels where I'm coming from," Allen said. "We've got a great bond."

Before and after every game, Allen thanks Orgeron for the opportunity and for trusting in him. And he thinks daily about others who have done the same.

"I just want to thank God for putting me in this situation," he says. "And putting the people in my life like he did."


Javorius Donte Allen grew up about 20 miles northeast of Tallahassee, in the small town of Miccosukee.

"A country town," Allen says, chuckling. "As country as can be."

The second of three brothers, he spent most of his early years in the care of Rosa Brown, his maternal grandmother. Brown filled their trailer with discipline and love, demanding manners and respect for elders.

"I didn't have him," she says of Allen. "But he's my baby."

When he was small, Allen often played by himself, picking up pine cones and pretending they were footballs. He ran about the yard, making up scenarios in his mind.

One day, his grandmother looked outside, saw him running about and asked what he was doing. "I'm playing football," Allen said.

"Football? You don't have no ball," Brown said. So she scraped up enough money to buy him one.

"I took it to school," Allen recalls. "I took it everywhere."

Allen's world was temporarily shattered at age 12 when his older brother, Devon Brown, was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to prison.

"That really hurt me because he was like a father to me," Allen said. "For a couple weeks, I didn't know how to react. I just never talked to anybody."

Brown told her grandson there was nothing he could do to change what had happened to his brother.

"I don't want you following in his footsteps," she told him. "Go to college. Play football. Make something for yourself."


The Carrie Wilson Boys & Girls Club in Miccosukee, and the people Allen met there, changed his life.

"When I was up there, I never worried about things like how to get the next meal or how am I going to get home," he said. "I would just enjoy myself, and when that time came for it to close, I just figured it out from there."

In 2003, Davis Houck, a professor at Florida State, began volunteering at the club. Houck quickly noticed the 11-year-old Allen's athletic ability, and was also was struck by something else. "One of the first things I sensed about him is he would listen," Houck recalled.

A year later, Mickey Cullen became the club director. Cullen drew out Allen by giving him small responsibilities. He and his wife, Alice, hosted Javorius and his younger brother, Deon'shaye, in their home for dinner or just to hang out and play video games. They also attended church together.

"It felt like I was part of the family," Allen said.

With no means of transportation, Allen's football career might have ended before it began had Cullen not volunteered to pick him up from practices and drive him home from middle school. "It was an extra hour to hour-and-a-half, but it was worth it because it gave him a chance to do what he wanted to do," Cullen said.

Alice Cullen stayed in touch with teachers and monitored Allen's progress. When it was time for high school, the Cullens offered to take Allen into their home so that he would have the supplies and support to help him be successful.

The Cullens' grown children were out of the house, so Allen suddenly had his own spacious upstairs room and access to a computer. But he also was held accountable.

"What are you all doing? Where are you all going? You should have told me ahead of time," Allen recalled "Miss Alice" saying.

"I stayed home and thanked her for doing that," he added, "for having me so grounded and showing me that somebody's got to slow you down sometimes."

Alice also taught Allen how to drive. She took him shopping. She made sure he had a new shirt for dances and a flower for his date. "Everything a mom would do," Mickey said.

One day, while walking with Alice in the mall, someone came up to Allen, glanced at the white woman he was with said, "That your mom?"

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