Surrounded by a throng of reporters and video cameras following the Trojans’ practice on Tuesday, tailback Javorius "Buck" Allen fielded question after question with a remarkable sense of ease and humility, particularly for a player who has spent the vast majority of his career lying low in the background.
But after a breakout 16-carry, 133-yard and three-touchdown performance against Oregon State last Friday, it’s safe to say that he’s hidden no longer.
For some, the attention received over the course of the last few days would be enough to make a player’s head grow to astronomical proportions. For Allen, who has garnered a reputation as a tireless practice player whom USC head coach Ed Orgeron recently referred to as having a “heart of gold,” the newfound recognition is “no big deal.”
“I’m comfortable with it, but I’m not a person who likes the spotlight,” said Allen, whose third quarter 52-yard scoring run was the arguably the highlight of the night versus the Beavers. “I’m just here to do my job and to help my team get a W.”
Allen certainly succeeded in doing just that against Oregon State. Teaming with senior Silas Redd, he helped the Trojans churn out 242 yards on the ground, a major factor in the team’s eventual 31-14 victory.
“I just went out there with confidence,” Allen said. “I trust my speed and I trust my technique, and good things happened.”
A third-year sophomore out of Florida powerhouse Tallahassee Lincoln, Allen, 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, has shown flashes of his unique abilities before in practice and in scrimmage settings, particularly over the course of the last year-and-a-half, yet he remained buried on the depth chart. He gained a total of just 32 yards on six carries in his first two years on campus, and 137 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries through the team’s first eight games of this season. Through it all, however, he remained patient and never lost faith that his time would come.
“I know what I can do with my skills and with the ability that God gave me, so I never got down at all,” Allen said. “To be honest, it just made me work harder. I just felt like, ‘Well, I guess I wasn’t working hard enough.’ So, I’ve just been putting in 100 percent every day, and giving it my all.”
And with recent injuries to Tre Madden and Justin Davis, on top of an uplifting atmosphere of opportunity that has sprung up with Orgeron in charge of the USC program, Allen finally received the chance to play a significant role within the offense, and he made the most of it.
Still, even Orgeron was taken aback by some of the things Allen did against Oregon State.
“The way he’s running, and slashing, and leaning, and breaking tackles, and staying upright and moving forward … I think he’s gaining confidence every time he touches the ball,” Orgeron said. “We’re seeing things that we haven’t seen from him, really.”
One coach who might not have necessarily been so surprised by Allen’s effort is Tommie Robinson. Arriving in February as the Trojans’ new running back coach, he immediately turned into one of Allen’s biggest supporters, on and off the field.
“When we had a change of coaches at that running back position, Tommie came in and kept saying, ‘Hey, I really like Buck Allen.’“ Orgeron said. “And you know, when a coach likes you, and a coach wants you to play, wants to give you a chance, it means a lot to a young man.”
“Coach Robinson is a great guy,” Allen said. “He’s always pushing us to be better, to get the best ability out of us he can, and he just wants us to do good. With Coach Robinson, I don’t want to let him down. I feel like he’s a father figure to me. So, I just go out here and give it my all … 100 percent.”
With that kind of support behind him, not to mention a stellar performance in a game setting now in the books, Allen’s confidence is at an all-time high. Unwilling to take anything for granted, however, he’s already blocked last Friday’s game out of his mind, determined to approach USC’s matchup with California with the same hunger and drive that has led him to where he is now.
“I’m just looking forward to the future,” Allen said. “That game is gone and it’s passed. I’m looking forward to this Saturday, to try to help get a victory and have fun.”