East Lansing — Brian Allen knows all about the streak.
Most Michigan State football players looking to make it to the NFL are well aware that in the modern era of the draft — since 1967 when the NFL and AFL merged — there has been a Spartan taken every season.
Michigan State is one of only five schools that can make that claim and, in fact, at least one player from Michigan State has been taken in the NFL draft every season since 1941, the third-longest streak behind Southern Cal and Michigan.
“Oh yeah,” Allen said Friday after Michigan State’s pro day, which was attended by nearly two dozen NFL scouts. “But at the end of the day it’s not up to me. If it was I’d be going in the first round. That’s someone else’s decision, not mine. So I’ve worked hard as I could and feel I’ve had a good enough career to have that happen. But if it doesn’t, I’ll be ready to play football wherever I end up.”
Allen (6-foot-2, 302 pounds) is Michigan State’s best bet to be taken this season and was the only Spartan who was invited to the NFL Combine. That’s why he didn’t take part in most of Friday’s tests. Instead, linebacker Chris Frey, running back Gerald Holmes, defensive end Demetrius Cooper and kicker Brett Scanlon went through measurements and drills for the scouts.
It was especially stressful, Frey said.
Mark Dantonio talks about MSU's roster, pro day. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
“It’s a lot different (than a big game),” Frey said. “I’ve said it 100 times, this is the biggest interview of my entire career. I don’t really get nervous for games. That’s not a thing for me. I’ve been doing this my entire life. This is different. I was nervous for today to be honest. To come out here and put up a specific number for everyone watching, that’s different than playing a game.”
It was the same thing for Holmes, who is looking for a shot to get in camp with a team regardless of whether he gets drafted.
“I’ve been facing obstacles and fighting those all my life,” said Holmes, the Flint native who said he has a meeting set up with the Lions in a couple weeks. “Hopefully it’s not a dry month for me, but a lot of it’s out of my control.”
That’s the reality for all of the Spartans who worked out Friday. Allen has the best shot at hearing his name called and has made strides since the end of the season, performing well at the Shrine Game and at the Combine.
In January, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Allen had a shot to move up in the draft.
Former Michigan State players Brian Allen, Gerald Holmes and Chris Frey talk about getting ready for the NFL. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
“With Brian Allen, just a hard-working overachiever type, my ninth-highest rated center,” Kiper said. “Probably puts him in the late-round category, a late-rounder (or) priority free agent for Brian Allen.
“But there’s a chance he could go in the sixth-, seventh-round area.”
Allen has been down this path. He sat and agonized with his brother, Jack, two years ago. Jack Allen was an All-American and projected to go in Day 2 of the draft. Instead, he went undrafted before signing with the New Orleans Saints.
It’s a process Brian Allen thinks has prepared him for whatever might come in late April.
“I probably had more anxiety watching (Jack) than going through it myself,” he said. “At the end of the day it was probably good I got to watch him with expecting to get drafted on the second day to not getting called until after the seventh round on the third day
“So, expect the worst and hope for best. I’ll just hang out here or at home. No party. Just sitting on my couch being a loser. We’ll see.”
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio knows Allen is kidding. He believes Allen has a place in the NFL, and that’s the feedback he’s been getting.
“I just continually hear he’s a football player and he’s going to play,” Dantonio said. “He’s going to play a long time in that league. He’s just so athletic. He’s powerfully built. You know he’s a wrestler. He played the position, he could play guard and center, so he’s a multiple use guy and he understands football.”