Ellrie Allen, Jr., a third-generation Rattler, knows a thing or two about persevering. His faith never wavered when his football career was in jeopardy following three severe knee injuries.
Born and raised near Tampa in Wesley Chapel, Allen has been in the spotlight and blazed the football field since middle school. Always dreaming of following his parents’ and grandparents’ footsteps, Allen wanted to attend FAMU.
“I’ve been around FAMU all of my life,” Allen said. “I was on campus going to summer camps and football camps at FAMU. It was always a dream of mine to go to FAMU. If you ask any of my friends, they will tell you boy Ellrie been going to FAMU since he was a kid.”
Coming from a small city, Allen knew early on that he had to work hard on and off the field to fulfill his dreams. He worked tirelessly to accomplish his lifelong goal to be recruited by FAMU.
“Living in Wesley Chapel, you have to find other ways to try and really get it,” said Allen. “When you come from that area you understand that scouts are not going to come there. I had to go to different camps like Broward, Texas, Atlanta, Virginia, drive all these places. Any camp FAMU was at, I was going to that camp. It could’ve been Georgia, Texas, Alabama, I was going.”
Allen had faith that FAMU was going to give him the offer he always dreamed of. His dream became a reality his senior year in high school when he was recruited.
His faith was tested for the first time during a high school championship game when he tore his ACL.
Although his ACL wasn’t healed, Allen began his journey at FAMU spring 2017.
Battling a lack of resources to pay for school and a plan to recover, he was determined to find a way to keep his dreams alive.
“I went to practice every morning and put the bag and trash cans on the field,” said Allen. “After practice, I would work on my knee. My former coach noticed my hard work, told me he respects me and knows that I was a good kid, good player, and was going to find me some money for school.”
Shortly after, Allen’s coach was replaced. After two years and fully recovered, he finally got a chance to play during his sophomore year.
During the North Carolina A&T game, his knee failed again and he was out for the season. The following summer, both of his knees were impacted and Allen’s mental health was at stake.
“Ellrie struggled with depression and his mental health was rocky,” said MarKayla Jacobs, Allen’s longtime girlfriend. “He loves FAMU and football like a toddler loves candy but it has put him through a lot physically and mentally. He fought for his joy every day. There’s been times where he thought he could never play the game again and these times were very tough on El. All he wanted to do is play football and be healthy.”
Battling depression, Allen ceased communication with all family and friends until he returned to campus last spring. After accepting an invitation from teammates to attend a bible study session, he was saved. Making this life-changing decision, Allen gained the strength and faith to play again, although doctors told him his knees were not adequate.
Allen believes God gives his toughest battles to his toughest soldiers and there was a reason God had him facing so many adversities.
“One thing that I can say is that though he was sad he was not defeated,” said Jacobs. “We leaned on God together, and prayed for him to be free from depression. He journaled, talked to God, and gained support from his teammates. These were all healthy ways he dealt with his situation. El finding himself again made me so proud of him.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Allen had the chance to go back to Wesley Chapel and coach at his former high school. He encouraged the football team with his story of faith. Others who know “El,” were also inspired by his journey.
“His mind is his greatest strength, his work ethic is second to none,” said Zoron Wade, Allen’s friend and teammate. “He pushed through obstacles. Over this past year, El been devoting more of his time to Christ. His faith is growing every day. God is working in him. When El received his scholarship, I probably had more emotions going than him. It was highly anticipated and well deserved. I’m happy he finally got what he been working for since day one.”
After a recent practice, Allen was presented with a scholarship in front of his teammates and coaches. Allen credits God for this opportunity and is grateful for Willie Simmons, FAMU’S head football coach.
“Ellrie’s strengths are his work ethic, attitude, and perseverance,” Simmons said. “He is one of our hardest workers, in the classroom, on the field, or weight room, he wants to be the best at it. His love for football pushed him to come to practice every day with a great attitude. In our program we say you get what you deserve. He has done everything we’ve asked of him and deserved the scholarship.”
The 22-years-old, linebacker is excited and ready to play again for FAMU. Allen keeps his bible verses and values close to his heart and wants his story to inspire others to never give up. He plans to graduate in December.
FAMU’s first football game is scheduled Labor Day weekend in Miami, where Allen will play against his best friend, Isaiah Bolden, who plays for Jackson State.