Austin Allen last week experienced what it means to be a highly regarded collegiate tight end.
Part of it, at least.
Sometimes it means wearing a snappy dress suit in an NFL stadium.
It might involve discussing what got you there.
“It started all the way back when I played my first snap of flag football,” the Nebraska junior standout from Aurora said. “If you would’ve told me when I was 10 years old that I’d be sitting in Lucas Oil Stadium at Big Ten Media Days (in Indianapolis), I would’ve thought you were crazy.”
“I mean, I was tall,” said Allen, now 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds. “I just thought I was going to be playing basketball in college. Here we are playing football.”
He’s playing at a high enough level that his head coach, Scott Frost, believes he’ll soon be paid handsomely.
And we’re not talking about name, image and likeness money.
We’re talking about NFL dollars.
In fact, Frost’s comments in Indy about his veteran tight ends were eye-opening.
“I’m excited about our young tight ends,” Frost said. “But I’ll tell you, Austin Allen and Travis Vokolek, I think, have a career in football. I love where we are at that position and what those two are going to give us in the run game and the passing game. Those two are going to be a key part of what we’re doing on the football field, and they’ve both been great leaders for us as well.”
Frost has known Allen since Allen’s high school days in Aurora. As head coach at Central Florida in 2016 and 2017, Frost recruited Allen. Now, Frost portrays Allen as a focal point of the offense, someone capable of making significant improvement on his career-best numbers last season (18 receptions for 236 yards and a touchdown).
Allen had a total of nine receptions combined in 2018 and 2019.
By the way, he’s never been to a bowl game.
“Austin’s seen a lot of different things, been through some struggles in his three years, and I think that gives him a determination to make sure while he’s at Nebraska that this thing goes the way he wants it to,” Frost said. “He’s pushing himself, he’s pushing everybody else. He can want to be a leader, and that’s great. He can want to be a captain, and that’s also great. My guess is the team will vote him one because that’s the kind of leadership he’s giving us.”
Meanwhile, Frost also mentions the 6-6, 260-pound Vokolek (nine receptions for 91 yards last season as a junior) as he reels off the team’s foremost leaders.
“They’re both really skilled pass catchers,” the coach said of the veteran tight ends. “Both have become really good run blockers for us. We’re always looking for complete players, players who can do anything that you ask of somebody at that position in an offense. With both of those guys, we can leave them on the field no matter what play we call.
“I’m not sure I’d trade my tight ends for many around the country, if any.”
Allen appreciated Frost’s public praise. It helps fuel him.
Granted, his stats have been somewhat underwhelming. But personal stats aren’t his priority anyway.
“It’s not necessarily important to me,” he said. “What I want to see is Nebraska winning. I don’t care if I have 30 catches or two. It doesn’t matter to me. As long as Nebraska’s winning, that’s my goal.”
Plus, Allen thinks his catch total will increase. One big reason: junior quarterback Adrian Martinez.
“I think those numbers will come with the more confidence that Adrian has, and Adrian is super, super confident right now,” Allen said. “That’s all I’ve got to say about it. He’s got nothing to lose. I mean, he’ll tell you he’s had a couple ‘off’ years the last couple of seasons. He’s trimmed down 15 pounds and he’s the second-fastest guy on the team right now. It’s crazy. I think you’re going to see a completely different Adrian than we’ve seen the last couple years.
“He’s expressed to me that this is his year,” Allen added. “He’s going to give it all to Nebraska because Nebraska’s given it all to him, and he’s got nothing to lose. It’s kind of scary when a man has nothing to lose.”
It surely buoys a QB’s confidence to have two towering and talented tight ends.
They aren’t exactly alike, though.
“Travis is a big body,” Allen said. “We always give him a lot of crap about being a right tackle, but he’s not a right tackle. That’s the running joke. But he’s a very gifted blocker. He can move bodies. He has a lot of girth behind him. I think that’s what separates him from me. And I think my claim to fame would be a little more in the pass game — being able to get open and being able to make plays with my length. Not to say Travis can’t. He’s a little better in the run game, and I’m a little better in the pass game. That’s the way I see it.
“I feel like I can get stronger (as a blocker). It would probably be my biggest weakness, my run blocking. But I’m not going to say it’s hurting me as a football player. I feel like it’s up to par, in golf terms.”
His head coach would agree.
“(Frost) loves the length that Travis and I have,” Allen said. “I mean, we’re 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-8. I think that’s the biggest reason he thinks we’re going to make it to the next level. We’re athletic for being 6-7 and 6-8. There’s not many times you see 6-8 tight ends in the NFL.”
The NFL talk, the media glare, the intensity of a critical season for the program — it’s all pretty eye-opening, he said.
Especially when you’re seated in Lucas Oil Stadium wearing a snappy suit.