Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen is majoring in financial planning and scheduled to graduate in December, so he knows a thing or two about sound business judgment.
He also knows that some people in his shoes might have jumped at the chance to turn pro when there are projections out there suggesting that he would be a first-round selection in April’s NFL draft.
But Allen, the sacks leader on Alabama’s 2015 national championship team, did his homework and came to the conclusion that the best business decision he could make was returning to school for his senior season.
That and he wouldn’t mind a shot at another national title.
Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen led the team in sacks in another national title season for the Crimson Tide. AP Photo/LM Otero
“I looked at it from every angle I possibly could and discussed it with all the people I trust,” Allen told ESPN.com. “The smartest thing I could do was come back to Alabama and finish out my career. It’s not an easy decision. You think about all the what ifs and hear what everybody is saying on the outside. But at the end of day, it’s a business decision, and I feel like I made a good one.”
The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft was Monday. The 6-3, 283-pound Allen was projected by ESPN’s Mel Kiper in his recent mock draft to go 19th overall in the first round, but Allen said he received a second-round grade from the NFL draft advisory committee.
“I know a lot people were saying I might go in the first round, but it’s important that you listen to the right people,” said Allen, who had 14 ½ tackles for loss, including 12 sacks this season. “My grade was second round. Nothing’s guaranteed, but I know the people coach (Nick) Saban is talking to and I trust him and I trust the people here at Alabama to steer me in the right direction. They’re looking out for me, and if they felt like it was time for me to go, they’d tell me that.”
Allen said he would also undergo shoulder surgery during the offseason to repair his labrum and plans to take out an insurance policy to protect himself from potential injury. He talked at length with teammates Jarran Reed and Reggie Ragland, who faced a similar decision a year ago. Both were projected to go somewhere in the second round, and both elected to return for their senior seasons. They’re now considered solid first-rounders, and both could come off the board in the top 20 picks.
“Jarran was in my same position last year, and especially with us both playing on the defensive line, he gave me some things to think about and some things to look at,” Allen said. “Looking at their situation now, it made it even easier for me, two examples of guys who had their priorities straight and made the right decision.”
The first people Allen talked with about his decision were his family members — his father, mother, brother and sister.
“We talked about it for a good hour or more,” said Allen, who then went to Saban and his position coach at Alabama, Bo Davis.
“The good thing about it is that nobody told me what I should do,” Allen said. “They gave me the facts, let me bounce things off of them and then let me make the decision. I kept coming back to the same things. I’ll get my shoulder fixed, move my grade up into the first round and take a shot at winning another national championship. You can’t beat that.”
The only Alabama underclassmen to declare for the draft were Heisman Trophy running back Derrick Henry and defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson. Allen and several others, including tight end O.J. Howard, linebackers Reuben Foster and Tim Williams and safety Eddie Jackson, had been weighing their options, but they all decided to return for their senior seasons.
“It’s a load off your shoulders to get this decision behind you, and it’s all about the future now,” Allen said. “Every team is different, and we’ve already started down that road to get to where we need to get to have another chance at the championship.
“Last year’s team has nothing to do with this team. We’ll have a lot of new challenges, some different coaches, different guys needing to step up, but we’re excited to get started again. That’s the great thing about playing in this program. We don’t ever look back. We’re always pushing ahead.”
Getting Allen back, not to mention some of the other underclassmen, will only place a bigger target on the Crimson Tide, who’ve won four of the last seven national championships and will be one of the favorites to win a fifth next season.
“It’s not pressure. It’s just part of playing at Alabama,” Allen said. “We put more pressure on ourselves than anybody else ever could. The practices here are way harder than the games, and not everybody can deal with that. We don’t get caught up in the hype. We’re just trying to be the best we can be every time we go out there.”