Football Celebrity Story Coach George Allen


This is a celebrity story of a different kind: Sports, not Showbiz. When football season is in full swing my thoughts often flow toward the first of my two celebrated college coaches the incomparable innovator George Allen. The other was Don Coryell but that’s for another post.

I’ll begin with the back story, a brief quote from book one of my memoirs, Three Stages: My senior year [at Hollywood High] I had a student teacher in my favorite class, physiology. His name was Jerry Porter and we hit it off well. Jerry was also an unofficial student coach on the football team and he thought I had potential as a college player. He was a recent graduate of Whittier College, just outside LA, where he was a starting end for two years. So after the season Jerry drove me to Whittier to meet the coach, George Allen.

I’m sad to say that I have no actual memory of that meeting but the result is somewhat summed up by this note I recently discovered when cleaning out boxes in my office.

 

Why Coach addressed me as “Benny” I don’t know and it mystifies me to this day since no one but my Mother ever called me that once I was past the age of thirteen.

I played on the freshman team that fall and did well enough for my “grant in aid” – a sort of semi-scholarship – to be renewed and the following year I was the number three fullback on the varsity.

Author Ben Bryant College Fullback

Author Ben Bryant College Fullback

Another Three Stages quote: Have you ever had an experience where you wished that you’d written something down, sealed it in a dated envelope and opened it ten years later? After the first week of practice I believed Coach Allen was destined for the NFL.

Just for fun I looked up the stats. Only 3% of high school players play in college and 1.6% of college players make it to the NFL. One hears a lot of talk about the difference between college football and the NFL but not so much about difference between high school and college football. Let me tell you that with Coach George Allen there were many profound differences. Two differences that Coach Allen had nothing to do with were speed and the intensity of the hits. We were the cream of the high school crop so these upgrades were to be expected.

What GA added to the mix was that he had designed plays for returning interceptions and fumble recoveries. And drills: interception drills, fumble drills, all sorts of drills. He was writing a book on drills

Author Ben Bryant's Coach George Allen

Author Ben Bryant’s Coach George Allen

and he used us to try them out. So practice was never boring or routine. We laughed a lot.

Even in 1954 The Green Arrow (his nickname) was a defense fanatic and for the two years I played for him the so-called “platoon system” aka unlimited substitution was against the rules so everyone played both offense and defense. In other words we were football players. I had to switch between defensive end and middle linebacker when all I wanted to do was run with the football and block.

Coach Allen was also a great motivator. We had awards for “Bonus Blocks”. If you made your assigned block then another that was a point. Backs got bonus points for being tackled when we didn’t have the ball. Defensive players got bonus points for tackles behind the opponents’ line of scrimmage. If you fumbled in a game or scrimmage you had to carry a football to classes and all the other players were supposed to try and knock it out of your hand at every opportunity. We didn’t fumble often. (I never fumbled in a game.) I could probably write a book about Coach Allen but that’s not today.

For more stories about these two truly special men, click here and get your copy of Three Stages.

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