Jordan Allen leaned back on the couch, put his hands on his thighs and pondered exactly what he wanted to say.
The question: Why did you leave LSU?
“It really was a big mixture — a gumbo pot — of things,” Allen said in his deep, Cajun accent.
You can take Allen out of Louisiana, but you can’t take the Louisiana out of him.
The 6-foot-5-inch, 263-pound defensive end is out of his home state for the first time in his life. After four seasons and 17 career games at LSU, Allen — a native of West Monroe, Louisiana — wanted a change of scenery for his final year of college.
His reasons — of which he has plenty — really are straightforward.
On the field, Allen wanted to have a bigger impact than he had with the Tigers. He wanted to be a leader and a player that teammates looked up to.
Off the field, he realized he needed a plan for life after football. Like most Arizona Wildcats, Allen, who graduated from LSU in May, has aspirations of playing in the NFL. But even if that happens, he knows it won’t last forever.
As he was going through spring drills in March with LSU, he realized he didn’t really have a post-football plan. It was then that he decided he wanted to pursue a master’s degree in business.
His undergraduate grades at LSU weren’t quite high enough to get into their post-graduate business program, so he started considering his options in the middle of spring ball.
“I just called my mom, and I wanted to confide in her,” Allen said. “At that point, I wasn’t even thinking about Arizona. I just looked at what I had and what I wanted, and I said, ‘Any football player who has banked everything on football has always wound up in trouble.’ Well, I can’t do that.”
So Allen hit the transfer wire.
Armed with a degree from LSU, Allen considered a host of schools before getting it down to Arizona and TCU. Intrigued by both Arizona’s business program and defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel’s 3-3-5 odd-stack scheme, Allen committed to the UA in late April.
He was brought in as insurance at end to Reggie Gilbert and Dan Pettinato. It has proven to be a good move: Gilbert has missed most of training camp with a foot injury.
Allen, who missed a few practices himself with a concussion, has now slid into Gilbert’s spot and is running with the first string.
“You don’t bring in a fifth-year guy like that to sit around,” coach Rich Rodriguez said. “You bring him in because you know he can help you.”
Allen chatted with the Star about his camp concussion, his adjustment to the UA and how he changed at LSU:
On how training camp at Arizona is different than LSU’s: “I don’t know; it’s football camp. The drills are different. Our schedules are a little bit different. At LSU, we were up there a lot, we were doing other activities with practice. Over here, it’s fast-paced practice. We get through things really, really quick and we do get that time to rest and recover.
“I like how this camp is run. Coach has a good idea behind it. We’re going work hard when we work, and when we don’t, we’re going to get our rest in because the ultimate thing an athlete needs is his rest, and he does that.”
On suffering a concussion early in camp: “The second practice, I rolled my ankle pretty bad. I came back that day, and it wasn’t a big deal. But a couple days after we started full pads, I took a really big hit on one of our drills, and I thought I was just shaken. I thought I’d be fine.
“The trainers pulled me to the side and said, ‘We need to look at your head real quick and make sure you’re functioning right.’ They decided to hold me out because I had symptoms of a concussion. It bugged me to death because I wanted to be out there. How are you going to tell me I can’t be out there because of my head? ”
On the adjustment to Casteel’s three-man front: “It’s easy as far as X’s and O’s because you understand what we’re trying to do. The one thing I will say is it was harder for me to break habits from the old technique, where I would play more outside on the tight end, always trying to contain and constrict the pocket. In the three-man down linemen (set), we have so many different responsibilities. I have to make sure my techniques aren’t getting messed up. He knows I’m trying to learn it as fast as I can because the faster I learn it, the faster this defense will run.”
On how he’s different since high school: “I have long hair. No, I learned all the lessons that I felt like were placed in my life that I needed to learn at the time. To be able to bring it over here, it’s crazy. It doesn’t matter how far you travel around the world, you’re going to find people with those same issues. To be able to help some of those younger guys and tell them I’ve been here, I’ve done that. If you do things like this, this is what is going to happen. To be able to do that, it really helps out this team. It allows the younger guys to grow up faster, and that’s what you need out of your leadership.”