The following story is told in the voice of former Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen. Before Allen begins his next journey of trying to survive in the NFL, we caught up with him to provide a survival guide for the first-year SEC quarterbacks. From being the local kid with the bright future to dealing with the highs and lows of his 5 years in Fayetteville, Allen’s college experience had a little bit of everything. Allen’s answers to our questions were edited and compiled for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.
The second I stepped on campus was when I realized that rankings didn’t matter anymore.
Going to the first workout with the team, the players already there and the coaches don’t care if you were a 5-star or a walk-on. They want you to prove that you’re good enough to play at the SEC level.
I wouldn’t say I felt the pressure as much as some other incoming freshman who were invited to The Elite 11. I was a 3-star recruit coming out of Fayetteville High and staying in town to play for my dream school. As much as I would have liked to come in and play right away, I knew the best thing for me would be to learn and continue to develop.
Former Arkansas QB Austin Allen
Fortunately, I got to learn from my older brother (former Arkansas starting quarterback Brandon Allen). His main thing he told me about surviving in the SEC was never taking a week off and showing up to the facility being the same person if you threw a game-winning touchdown or had a bad game.
Consistency in your weekly approach is everything.
Whether you have an older brother/veteran in that quarterback room or not, learn the offense as well as you can. You might not get many reps right away, but if you take mental reps and listen to what the coach is teaching the veteran on his mistakes, you can make sure you don’t duplicate those mistakes when you get your opportunity.
For those who don’t want to wait around for that opportunity, remember that anywhere you go there is going to be competition.
I didn’t expect anything to be handed to me. Coaches are going to play the players who they trust and believe give them the best chance to win. It’s not the coaches’ fault if you don’t play. The only thing you should worry about is getting better and proving to the coaches that you deserve to play.
I think it was rewarding for me to fulfill that lifelong dream to be the starting quarterback for Arkansas and waiting 3 years to play made me a better quarterback. It taught me more life lessons than if I would’ve transferred somewhere else.
Speaking of lessons, I learned a few of those playing in the SEC. First of all, this is grown-man football. Being a half-second late or not sliding when you’re 1-on-1 with a linebacker won’t end up well for you.
I’d say high school is like getting hit by a smart car and the SEC is like getting hit by a Mack Truck.
Off the field, there are adjustments you have to make. I did well in all of my classes so I didn’t fall behind and have to do 8 hours of study hall every week like some of the other freshmen who came in with me.
Former Arkansas QB Austin Allen
There are, however, a lot of things I feel like I could have done differently my freshman year. I would say the biggest thing I wish I did differently is knowing the why I was there. I was there to get an education and be the best football player I could be. When guys are getting ready for the NFL Draft, they decide to start eating healthy and going to sleep early.
Why wouldn’t you start doing that your freshman year to be the best player you can be all 3 or 4 years of college?
Your off-field approach to everything is important. I definitely had to deal with more highs and lows than a typical quarterback throughout my career.
One Saturday people are going to love you, and the next they might not think you’re any good. You gotta be the same person everyday and not listen to any of the outside noise. You have to listen to your coaches and people you trust. Never waver in your self-confidence.
I’ve always had a good relationship with the media, but with social media, you kinda just have to have tough skin and know that everyone’s going to have an opinion. People want you to respond back to a negative comment.
But I was able to live out my dream, so really there was no reason to pay any attention to it.
As you begin your SEC career and hopefully live out your dream, let me offer up one more piece of advice.
Don’t wait around and expect to play and be good like you were in high school. Everyone is there for a reason. The only way that you’ll play and succeed is if you put the work in and dedicate the next 4 years of your life to being the best student, teammate and football player you can be.
If you don’t take anything else from my experience, remember that.