TIME TO SHINE: After injuries and position moves, savvy Temple senior Luke Allen thrives at receiver
FINAL-SEASON SURGE: After suffering three broken collarbones early in his Temple career and changing positions numerous times, senior Luke Allen has found a home at wide receiver this season. The younger brother of former Wildcats standout quarterback Zach Allen has made six receptions for 93 yards and two touchdowns from fellow senior Humberto Arizmendi, helping Temple get off to a 2-0 start entering its home opener against Arlington Martin (1-1) at 7 p.m. Friday at Wildcat Stadium. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
For the first two seasons of Luke Allen's high school football career with the Temple Wildcats, it seemed that he couldn't catch a break.
Late in his freshman season of 2017, Allen suffered a broken right collarbone while playing quarterback in a sub-varsity game against College Station. The injury was healing as planned – until something happened several weeks later.
“They allowed me to take the sling off for the first time, so I was like, 'OK, let's throw the football around,'” Allen recalled. "And I jumped up for a ball and someone took my feet out.”
When Allen fell, the same collarbone broke again. He made a full recovery and went through Temple's spring practice and preseason workouts, shifting to the defensive side at cornerback as he competed for a starting varsity role as a sophomore. But in the Wildcats' home scrimmage against College Station in late August 2018, something else happened.
“I was trying to make a tackle and just hit it and (broke) the other collarbone,” Allen said.
That made it three significant injuries in a 10-month span for the apparently snakebit Allen, who missed his entire sophomore season because of the broken left collarbone. Prior to high school, he said, his injury history was limited to a broken finger in middle school.
A fully recovered Allen competed for Temple's starting quarterback position as a junior in 2019 but shifted to slot receiver after then-senior Vance Willis won the job en route to earning District 12-6A's Offensive Player of the Year award.
Although then-senior Quentin Johnston and then-junior AJ McDuffy were Willis' top targets in the passing game, Allen showed brief flashes of playmaking ability with four receptions for 113 yards and 13 carries for 164 yards and a touchdown, along with providing a positive burst as a kickoff returner.
Johnston's departure for Texas Christian then opened a position at outside wide receiver, and Temple's coaches believed that the speedy, savvy Allen was the right guy to fill those big shoes.
Through two games this season for the 2-0 Wildcats, the 5-foot-11, 160-pound Allen has been busy proving them right.
Forming an effective connection with friend and senior quarterback Humberto Arizmendi, Allen has made six receptions for 93 yards and two touchdowns – one scoring catch each in the season-opening 40-13 win over state-ranked Longview and last Friday's 28-13 victory at Magnolia West.
Allen and Temple – who have cracked Texas Football magazine's Class 6A state rankings at No. 23 – are set for their long-awaited home opener against perennial 6A playoff qualifier Arlington Martin (1-1) at 7 p.m. Friday at Wildcat Stadium.
Allen certainly has had to persevere through numerous injuries and position changes, but his personal success and Temple's team success to begin his senior season allowed him to let out a hearty laugh at lunchtime Tuesday when discussing what he described as “lots of switching back and forth.”
An outstanding student who ranks within the top 3 percent of his senior class, Allen isn't the type to talk about himself too much. And that's fine, because Temple head coach Scott Stewart and offensive coordinator Josh Sadler were quick to commend the all-around package that Allen exhibits as the quintessential student-athlete.
“Luke is the consummate leader. He's a leader in the locker room, he's a leader in the hallways, he's a leader in the town. The kids listen to him,” Stewart said. “He's one who didn't have much (varsity playing) experience at all and was one of the top three vote-getters for team captain. He's just a good person. He's the first one who jumps on the (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) stuff. He gets the life part. His parents have done a phenomenal job.”
Understanding Allen's long, winding road to become a player who's taking advantage of his opportunity to shine as a senior, Sadler is quite impressed.
“Luke has done a great job of working himself into great situations where he can be successful,” Sadler said. “The bottom line on him is that he works his tail off and he has earned everything and every position that he's in right now. It's working out for him right now and hopefully he stays hot.”
The youngest of Scott and Debbie Allen's four children, Allen grew up watching his brother, Zach Allen, play quarterback for Temple as a three-year starter from 2010-12. Zach was a highly productive dual-threat weapon at QB for head coach Mike Spradlin's high-scoring Wildcats as a junior and senior before going on to play collegiately at TCU and Rutgers.
Luke Allen said it wouldn't be completely accurate to say he watched his brother a lot.
“I wish I would have watched him more. I was always running around with the other kids, playing football while he was playing,” Luke said. “But it was cool. He was someone to look up to and a good role model, that's for sure. I wanted to follow in his footsteps.”
Luke said Zach, who now works in sales for a medical company, attended Temple's season-opening win at AT&T Stadium in Arlington two weeks ago and comes to as many of his brother's games as he can. And Zach remains someone Luke can approach for sound advice whenever the younger Allen seeks it.
“Absolutely. He was never pushy about anything. When we were little we were always rough. He made me a lot of who I am,” Luke said. “He was always just there and sending encouragement. He knew how it felt when everyone asked him about football, so he always let me come to him. That was good.”
Both of the Allen brothers' sisters also were athletes at Temple High School: Erika, 29, was a hurdler and now is a doctor who's a fifth-year resident at Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in Temple; Regan, 27, was a swimmer and now works as a traveling speech therapist.
As important as athletics has been for the Allen family (father Scott, a lawyer, played safety for the Texas Longhorns), it's consistently been academic pursuits that get top billing inside their home.
“That's always been the top priority. If we don't come home with an A, we get talked to,” said Luke, who maintains a 4.0 grade-point average while taking advanced-level classes such as environmental science and theory of knowledge. “It's very important, and it's paid off. I'd say I enjoy it. If I'm going to be here at school, then I might as well get the most out of it.”
Allen said it's challenging to come home after a long after-school practice and tackle a load of schoolwork, but it's also what he's become accustomed to.
“A lot of times I come home from practice and get home around 7:30 or 8 and try to do homework – and fall asleep on the couch. That's usually how that goes. It's a bad mix,” he said, chuckling.
Allen said he plans to apply to Texas – he wants to study business – and expects to have guaranteed admission because he ranks in the top 6 percent of his senior class.
“I'm in the top 3 percent, really,” he added in the closest he'll come to bragging on himself. “I've always been interested in business. In middle school I used to sell candy. I'm always trying to do something to make some money.”
Allen said the only thing that would keep him from attending Texas would be a scholarship offer from an NCAA Division I program. He's received some recruiting interest from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“Air Force has talked to me, and if they offered me then I'd go to Air Force,” Allen said. “If a D-I football team were to offer me, I would go, but I'm not going to walk on at Texas. I'll just get my education.”
WIDE-OPEN SCORE: Temple senior wide receiver Luke Allen scores a touchdown on a 4-yard reception from Humberto Arizmendi during the third quarter of the Wildcats' 40-13 season-opening victory over Longview at Arlington's AT&T Stadium on Sept. 25. Allen has caught a touchdown pass in each of the first two games for 2-0 Temple. (Photo by Matt Corley, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Running track for the Texas Greyhounds summer club team and for the Wildcats' spring squad also has played a vital role in the development of Allen's speed – he runs the 40-yard dash in approximately 4.5 seconds – and his work ethic.
“Track comes with so much work ethic. Like, that's all it is. That instilled all my work ethic,” said Allen, who runs all three relays along with competing in long jump and high jump.
“He can roll. He can pick 'em up and put 'em down,” Stewart said. “He's a kid that can scoot, and the farther he goes the faster he gets. He's more of that 200(-meter) type speed, and 4.5 ain't broke.”
Allen said he “loved baseball” but chose to give it up as a freshman because it conflicted with track. He last played basketball as a sophomore and said he's planning to give it another shot this season, although he'd greatly prefer to get a very late start on hoops season because that would mean Temple's football team would have gone on its first extended playoff run since 2017 after consecutive first-round exits the last two postseasons.
“That's the plan,” Allen said, laughing. “That is the plan.”
Whereas Allen entered high school in 2017 with the intention of possibly quarterbacking the Wildcats like his brother did several years ago, he's now benefiting from catching passes from a fellow senior captain who waited his turn to move into a prominent role. Arizmendi has passed for 418 yards and six touchdowns in his first two varsity starts.
“Humberto has been a guy who's just kept his head down and worked as hard as he can,” Allen said. “He competed with me freshman year at quarterback and then competed for JV quarterback both years. He's always been a positive guy and there's no one who deserves it more. He's always worked so hard. He throws the ball wherever it needs to be and does a great job.”
And the fact that Allen has played quarterback helps him anticipate what Arizmendi is thinking.
“We've been friends for all four years, and it helps that we think alike and we've both been quarterbacks,” said Allen, who enjoys hunting and fishing and said he and Arizmendi have shot skeet together. “That helps with, 'Oh, I see this coverage. I know what he's looking for.' We have a good connection.”
When it comes to sharing knowledge with teammates, Allen said he's happy to do so but “I just try not to cross the line of being too bossy.”
As for Stewart, he likes having Allen as a coach-on-the-field type.
“He's played both sides of that ball, so he understands that a 14-step comeback has got to be a 14-step comeback. It can't be late and it can't be early,” Stewart said. “He's just so intelligent. He sees the field and understands concepts. He can tell you, 'If this guy's leveraging me here, this is going to be my release.' That's the student part of the game that I wish a lot more of them had.”
Against Longview, Allen nearly made a leaping touchdown catch of a deep Arizmendi pass to the back of the end zone, but the officials ruled it incomplete.
“They said I dropped it,” Allen said. “I do believe that I caught it, but it doesn't matter.”
Undeterred, Allen then went in motion to the right and used slant routes by McDuffy and junior Tr'Darius Taylor that cleared out the Lobos' defenders in the flat, leaving Allen open for an easy 4-yard touchdown on Arizmendi's accurate strike during the game-changing third quarter as Temple outscored Longview 30-0 after halftime.
Five minutes into last Friday's game at Magnolia West, Allen ran a stop-and-go route down the left side – Arizmendi contributed a deft pump-fake – and got wide-open for a 38-yard touchdown reception on his way to a four-catch, 74-yard first half.
“Luke is doing a great job of running routes and getting himself open in situations,” Sadler said.
A major area of improvement for Allen this season has been his blocking ability. With Temple leading Magnolia West 21-13 to begin the fourth quarter and facing fourth-and-1, Allen's textbook downfield block helped spring junior running back Samari Howard for a 23-yard gain to set up the Wildcats' final TD, an Arizmendi pass to sophomore Mikal Harrison-Pilot.
“Something new I've experienced being a receiver is blocking,” Allen said. “I'm a very passive guy outside of football, and you have have to be aggressive (on the field).”
“He's a done a heck of a job,” Sadler said of Allen's blocking. “All of our receivers have done a great job with their blocking. That's something we focused on in the offseason and it's something Luke takes a lot of pride in.
“Luke's the ultimate team player, and he does anything that we ask him to do and does it to the best of his ability. He's just a great team player. He's what Temple Wildcat football embodies – you do whatever it takes to help your team be successful.”
Allen, the dedicated student-athlete and survivor of not one or two but three broken collarbones, would have it no other way.
“You see Samari blocking for his quarterback against those big ol' guys, so I do my part for my team because I know everyone else is doing their part,” Allen explained. “So if I can block a cornerback and let Samari score, then that's what needs to be done. In our offense you have to be a selfless person.”