Mobile, Ala. — For Jack Allen, breakfast became the most important meal of the day during his final three years of high school.
As a freshman, he weighed about 185 pounds and played running back and nose guard. He also wrestled at 189 pounds and played baseball.
Before his sophomore year, Allen saw an opening at center, a position he played in middle school, so he thought it was a good idea to start gaining weight.
“I was not a great running back at all, so that move needed to happen,” he said. “I never saw my path to college football in the backfield, so I had to put my hand in the dirt sooner or later.”
By the start of Allen’s senior year, he was up to 270 pounds, and adding a morning meal helped him bulk up.
“I usually would never eat breakfast before high school,” he said. “One of my coaches suggested it, and I had to text him my breakfast every morning to put on weight.”
Clearly, the decision paid off. As a three-star recruit out of Hinsdale, Illinois, Allen received scholarship offers from Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin. He chose East Lansing, and after redshirting in 2011, Allen was a four-year starter with 42 games at center and five at left guard.
Now, Allen is preparing to be selected in the NFL draft, and after participating in the Senior Bowl this week, he’s one step closer to achieving that goal.
“Very quick, tough kid,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “It’s a really good center class. As you know, centers don’t get valued as highly as they should. I don’t know what round he’s going to go in. I just know he’s going to make somebody’s team, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he ends up starting somewhere.”
CBS Sports ranks Allen as the No. 2 center in the draft and No. 67 overall prospect, making him a likely Day 2 pick.
At the Senior Bowl, Allen measured 6-foot-1-1/2 and 297 pounds. In addition to adding breakfast in high school, he said he added weight by working out a lot. He also stopped playing baseball after his freshman year to focus on football and wrestling — he won a state title at 285 pounds.
But, after getting up early to eat those big breakfasts the last three years of high school, Allen said his mother deserves plenty of credit. She’d be up even earlier to cook, and Allen said she’d eat anything she made, though eggs and potatoes were regularly on the menu in some form.
Allen said he’d also bring two big sandwiches to school and buy something from the cafeteria as he tried to add weight. At the time, Allen didn’t know if he’d have the chance to play college football, and when he arrived in East Lansing, he remembers the conditioning drills being difficult because he had to run the same amount as the smaller players.
With the NFL draft a couple of months away, Allen soon will find out it was all worth it.
“I was just happy that I didn’t get destroyed the first day of college football,” he said. “When you see guys like Jerel Worthy out there and Will Gholston, you’re like, ‘Man, these guys are specimens.’
“(In the NFL), you’ve just got to restart again, try to prove yourself and work your way up.”
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m., Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Ala.
Local participants: North — C Jack Allen, WR Aaron Burbridge and DE Lawrence Thomas of Michigan State; G Willie Beavers of Western Michigan. South — C Graham Glasgow of Michigan