Free safety Marcus Allen's enthusiasm, performance spark Penn State
The hard-hitting senior, the Nittany Lions' No. 2 tackler, always seems to be smiling but is serious about leading his team.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Marcus Allen takes his football seriously, as any Penn State opponent can testify over the last four seasons, especially after a ballcarrier has been hit by the Nittany Lions' 6-foot-2, 205-pound free safety.
But if a bunch of Penn State football players gather together, Allen will be the one with a smile on his face. He'll be the guy leading his teammates with a dance in the locker room after a victory. His energetic style and attitude spread throughout the entire Lions program.
"I believe that you've got to have a positive attitude every day," Allen said Wednesday at Penn State's interview session in advance of Saturday's Fiesta Bowl matchup against Washington. "That's one of our core values, and I harp on that pretty big. It's something that's going to brighten your day every day.
"If you're going through something, even if you're not feeling good, if you have a positive attitude as soon as you step on that field, it can be contagious and make somebody else feel good. Then that whole practice and that whole day, you're just going to accomplish your goal. So that's what I try to do."
Allen said he acquired those characteristics from his family while growing up in his hometown of Upper Marlboro, Md.
"They're positive people," he said. "My father, he's always making jokes. My mom, she's always smiling."
Defensive coordinator Brent Pry said Allen's enthusiasm is "something that you can't underestimate."
"His charisma and his excitement and the way he approaches practices and games is infectious," Pry said. "It's a very important part, to me, of playing good defense, playing with that excitement and getting guys playing at an optimal level. He does that for us, and that's not just on Saturdays — that's in practice every day."
Allen has been a major contributor to the rebirth of the Nittany Lions program the last two seasons — 11-3 in 2016, 10-2 this year — with his leadership and his performance. He ranks second on the team with 65 tackles and needs just two Saturday to move into fifth place on the team's all-time list with 316.
Allen, who will be making his 46th and final start in a Penn State uniform against the Huskies, is proud of what the Lions have accomplished since he arrived on campus in 2014 with no guarantee of a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions that still gripped the program. The NCAA rescinded the bowl ban early in his freshman year, and Saturday will mark his fourth consecutive appearance.
"Coming in to Penn State to see where we were at first and then being able to be a part of this team and see how it unfolded by the end of my career, it's a blessing," he said. "It's a great feeling to be a part of it. I just make sure that the team, as far as the freshmen and everybody, understands how much it took to get where we're at now."
Allen said he and his teammates come to the Fiesta Bowl motivated by their last-second, 52-49 loss to Southern California in the Rose Bowl nearly a year ago. He and the other 10 senior starters on the Nittany Lions want to end their careers in a positive way.
"We had a bad taste last year after losing at the Rose Bowl," he said, "so we're just coming into this game just wanting to prove ourselves and having a chip on our shoulder to come out with the 'W'.
"This is the last one with my team, my brothers, so it means a lot to me to go out on the field one last time with them."