Mark Stoops on Josh Allen's decision to suit up for Citrus Bowl: It says a lot about who he is
Just a few years ago, a player skipping a bowl game was unheard of in college football. Now it’s happening more than ever.
Why has this become such a trend? There’s logic in the decision, as elite professional prospects are deciding to skip these postseason games to protect their potential value and health before they enter the final months before reaching the NFL.
That’s why players like West Virginia quarterback Will Grier, Michigan lineman Rashan Gary and LSU defensive back Greedy Williams have all announced they plan to skip their teams’ respective bowl games.
One player that has publicly announced he will play is Kentucky’s outstanding outside linebacker and pass rusher, Josh Allen. Allen projects as one of the top overall prospects for the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft. Allen announced on Friday that he would finish out the season with his teammates in the upcoming Citrus Bowl against Penn State.
During his Friday press conference, Mark Stoops was asked about Allen’s decision. According to the Kentucky head coach, he wasn’t surprised to see his best defender make the team-first decision, over the individual decision.
“It just says a lot about who he is and the way he cares about this place, the way he cares about his teammates,” Stoops said. “Obviously, I’m extremely close to Josh and spent a lot of time with him recently and I said the same thing to him. I said, ‘Josh I want you to know that your legacy is set and nobody, myself, or anybody would judge you any differently if you choose not to play in this game.’ I was definitely a factor a year ago in helping him make that decision but on this one I really didn’t want any part of that.
“I wanted him to truly make that decision on his own, and whatever he felt in his heart and whatever he felt was the right decision because we just respect him that much and he’s done so much for this place. He came and said, ‘Coach I’ve thought about it’ today on the plane on the way back he said, ‘I thought about it last night.’ I think he’s been leaning towards playing. He said, ‘I just felt in my heart that that’s what I’m going to do.’ He’s going to do things the way he always does. That’s put his head down and do things 100 miles an hour. Play hard, practice hard, and prepare the right way. He wants to continue to improve his stock and he wants to help us win the football game.”
Stoops was then asked a follow-up regarding if the team would get any extra motivation from Allen suiting up in the game and how the linebacker’s decision to return for his senior season really helped his stock with the NFL evaluators.
“He told his team today in a team meeting right before we went out to practice and it did. The guys were excited. I think it just sets a good example,” Stoop answered. “I was just talking to a couple pro scouts today and they’re using him as a reference to other juniors across the country. I don’t want to put a dollar figure on it but absolutely significant the difference between coming out a year ago and coming out now.
“He’s a great example for a lot of players. Also, with the way he, once he decided, he never looked back. Once he decided to do that, it wasn’t any doubt, it wasn’t any ifs or buts. He went to work and went through his process of getting himself ready to play and preparing himself for the season and for each game. I think that’s why he is in those awards shows and why he is represented with some of the greatest players in college football this year because they go about things the right way. Their minds and their hearts are in the right places. He’s just a great example for a lot of people.”