Program Spotlight: Zach Allen
Nov. 13, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. - Football players are a different breed. Offensive lineman take it a step further and have a different mentality then everyday people.
Senior Zach Allen is one of the offensive linemen that enjoys the nuances of the game that fans sitting at Carter-Finley Stadium don't get to experience.
"Being an offensive lineman, I love to hit people," said Allen. "I love to see people fall because of me. You want to hit people, you want to throw them off their game and make them notice where you are.
"I am real aggressive and I'm a mauler. My favorite part of the game is to pull, to be in open space, and look for somebody to hit."
That kind of attitude helped solidify Allen as the Pack's starting right guard each of the last three seasons, making 31 straight games dating back to his sophomore season in 2010.
"I'm honored that the coaches gave me a chance," said Allen. "When I was given that first chance, I made the best of my opportunity by working hard.
"The coaches here have been great. I started out with Coach Horton and now we have Coach Bridge. Coach O'Brien's reputation of getting offensive lineman to the NFL is one of the main reasons I came here."
But that consistency for NC State at right guard changed for Allen and the Pack in the ACC opener at Miami.
Early in the second quarter, Allen, who is the team's best run blocker according to the coaching staff, was run blocking when the pile collapsed on his leg.
"I remember it was a dive play and I was double-teaming a lineman," said Allen. "Then I got off that block and went up to the linebacker. I felt somebody hit me in the back of my legs.
"Naturally, when somebody touches your leg as an offensive lineman you have to go with the way you got hit, because if you go against it that is how you get hurt. As soon as I felt that, I tried to go down and I just didn't get down fast enough. I felt a pop and I was then laying on the ground hurting."
Allen was diagnosed with a rupture of the syndesmosis in the right leg and a fibula fracture. He was ruled out the rest of the season the following Monday.
"I knew it was bad right away," said Allen. "The pain started and it was throbbing. I started to hear some of my teammates encouraging me to get up. Mentally I was a mess, probably because it was the first time I could not get right back up."
To make matters even worse for Allen, he was going up against a cousin of his in Miami defensive lineman Shayon Green. They both grew up in Tifton, Ga., and it was their first career game against each other.
"I've known Shayon my entire life, just growing up together and going to the same school," said Allen. "He was actually the one that made the tackle on the play."
Allen was naturally down after the injury, but used his support system to help him get back on track.
"My dad did a really good job," said Allen. "He came up and stayed with me for 10 days. He is a pastor, and every day we prayed and he let me know that everything happens for a reason.
"Nobody treated the injury like it was the end of the world for me, and I think that aspect helped in dealing with this situation. The whole coaching staff got me out of my slump and back into the mindset that I am a member of the Wolfpack, playing or injured."
Shortly after getting hurt at Miami, Allen had surgery and had a screw inserted into his ankle to hold it together. He had been in a hard cast until last Monday, and is now in a walking boot and able to start rehab on his ankle.
"I'm working out every way I can," said Allen. "I'm in the gym a lot trying to get back and taking care of the rest of my body. When I do come back, I want to be in shape.
"I'm still working out five days a week right now, because I know when I do get back people are going to be questioning how I've recovered and kept in shape. I want to make sure that is not even a question in anybody's mind."
Allen is still on the minds of the Pack, especially the offensive linemen. Center Cam Wentz uses a marker and writes No. 72 on his bicep every game.
"We are all brothers," said Allen. "They know now that I am living through them. That brotherhood keeps me going."
Allen has other priorities in his life while trying to recuperate, his family and his education.
He has his girlfriend, Jessica, are the proud parents of a baby daughter, now eight months old.
"She is the joy of my life," Allen said with a huge smile. "She is starting to move around a lot now. She always brightens my day.
"It has been a big adjustment. Time management has been my biggest adjustment. Before her I did not have to worry about being responsible for anybody else other than myself. Making sure that I have enough time to be a father, while still being a student and then an athlete, was a huge adjustment for me."
Allen is continuing to learn about fatherhood, but before Susan was born he admits there was plenty to worry about.
"Before her birth, I was terrified," said Allen. "I was thinking, `how am I going to raise and support a child?' But I have a great support staff behind me. Not only my family, but also my NC State family - this team. Everybody has been real helpful, I could not do this without them."
Allen will earn his NC State degree this December. Allen plans on training and preparing for the NFL Combine this spring, but after hopefully a pro career, Allen is focused on what he wants to do with his degree.
"I know that I have to focus on my degree," said Allen. "Then I need to train and try to get back as healthy and as fast as I can. Right now, the most important thing for me is to stay on course and get that degree in December.
"I'm concentrating on social work," said Allen. "I want to go up north and have my own practice eventually. There is such a high demand for African-American male social workers up north. I really want to help people, more specifically children."
Allen is still making an effort to be involved with the Pack despite having to watch from the sidelines.
"I'm missing it a lot, a whole lot," said Allen. "I still like to give my support to the offensive line and the team overall every chance I can."