Iowa offers scholarship to HS freshman

Updated: May 10, 2011, 9:05 PM ET
By Scott Powers | ESPNChicago.com

John Allen was told twice last week Iowa was on the verge of offering his son Brian a football scholarship.

John Allen didn't believe it either time. Brian Allen was after all only a high school freshman and had never played varsity football.

But on Monday, John Allen called Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz as he was advised, and Ferentz confirmed that he would like to extend a scholarship offer to Brian Allen.

"We're all kind of amazed by it," John Allen said. "I don't think it's sunk in yet. He's 15 years old. He can't drive a car yet, etc."

Brian Allen, who plays on the offensive line, needed even more convincing when his dad told him the news.

"I thought my dad was kidding at first," said Brian Allen, who has also recently received interest from Purdue and Wisconsin. "To be offered as a freshman by the University of Iowa is nuts."

While the trend has become for some college coaches, especially those in men's basketball, to offer high school players scholarships at an earlier age, it's still rarely seen in football. It's just too difficult to gauge a player's physical development and skill level at such an early age.

"It's very rare," ESPN's national recruiting director Tom Luginbill said. "Coaches must feel he is an absolute no-brainer."

Iowa is likely taking that calculated risked with Brian Allen.

For one, he has put on nearly 35 pounds in the last two months and is already 6-foot-1 and 250 pounds. Secondly, his brother Jack Allen, a Hinsdale Central senior, will play offensive line at Michigan State next season. Finally, Brian Allen took third place in the 215-pound class at the Illinois state wrestling tournament.

"Seeing what his older brother Jack has done really helps," Hinsdale Central varsity assistant coach Nick Gebhart said. "It really makes it a good gamble. I think he's actually a lot like his brother, but he's evolved at a quicker rate."

Ferentz explained to John Allen that he does like recruiting offensive linemen with wrestling backgrounds.

"I think they were impressed in how did in the wrestling tournament," said John Allen, who played football at Hinsdale Central and wrestled at Purdue. "He's in the biggest division and most of the guys in the heavier classes are upperclassmen. I know they have a history of producing good linemen, and Coach Ferentz believes a lot of good linemen are good wrestlers. I guess they go hand in hand."

Jack Allen is proof of that. He was one of the area's top offensive linemen last season and also won the state's heavyweight wrestling title.

Jack Allen was highly recruited toward the end of his football career, but even he didn't receive his first scholarship offer until he was a junior. He chose Michigan State over Iowa in the end.

"It's pretty surprising," Jack Allen said of his younger brother's offer. "It's kind of cool. I just tell him to keep working and when it comes down to decision time do what you feel best."

Receiving an offer so early may go to some kids' heads, but Brian Allen isn't worried about that. Since learning about the potential offer on Friday, he's been in the weight room six times.

"It's going to drive me the next three years," Brian Allen said. "It's a motivation for me."

Brian Allen was honored to be thought of so highly as a freshman and said Iowa caught his attention, but he doesn't plan on committing anytime soon.

"You got to wait it out," Brian said. "I got three years to decide."

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.

Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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