Heisman winner Allen had it all sewed up
Los Angeles — What's to tell? Tailback Marcus Allen of Southern California won the 198l Heisman Trophy and the Empire State Building is in New York; they've got an awful lot of pineapples in Hawaii and Tuesday follows Monday.
By gaining more than 200 yards in each of the Trojans' first five games this season, and a college historymaking 2,342 overall, Allen had the Heisman locked up in a punctureproof bag by mid-October. The only pressure remaining on Marcus now is to perform well when USC plays Penn State on New Year's Day in the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.
Allen, if you look closely at the situation, actually beat out some classy talent for the Heisman award, including running back Herschel Walker of Georgia, plus quarterbacks Jim McMahon of Brigham Young and Dan Marino of Pittsburgh.
Marcus finished with 441 first-place votes, Walker with 152, and in another year Herschel's 1,891 yards gained wouldn't have been taken so lightly.
''I'm a goal-oriented person, and prior to the start of the 1981 season I had a talk with USC offensive coordinator John Jackson about what might be realistic for someone who is going to carry the ball 30 or more times a game,'' Allen told reporters. ''The fact that no college back had ever rushed for 2,000 yards in one season before didn't necessarily mean it couldn't be done.''
Allen, a poised 21-year-old whose major at USC is public administration, is the fourth USC tailback to win the Heisman, following in the footsteps of Mike Garrett (1965), O.J. Simpson (1968), and Charles White (1979).
Marcus is built for the pros and is certain to be some NFL team's first-round draft choice. He carries 205 pounds on a 6 ft. 2 in. frame, runs well either inside or outside, and has great balance. He is also faster than most people think he is.
''What Marcus does better than any college running back in the country is make people miss when they try to tackle him,'' said Trojan head coach John Robinson. ''Part of that is talent, but a lot of it is vision - you know, reading or anticipating what the defensive man is going to do before he does it.''
''Allen is a true renaissance man as a football player - a superb runner and accurate spot passer, an oustanding blocker, and one of the best pass-receiving backs I've ever seen,'' Robinson continued. ''He's also very bright and very competitive. Last year he didn't have the luxury of a balanced attack around him and he had to hammer away at people. But this season we gave him the chance to free-lance more.''
Allen played quarterback and defensive back in high school, but he knew he might wind up somewhere else at USC, which basically recruits players because they are good athletes and then works them in. He says the recruiters never mentioned the tailback position specifically, but just told him they knew he was capable of playing a lot of positions.
As a freshman, Allen backed up Charles White at tailback. He was used mainly at fullback as a sophomore in order to give him more action, then took over the No. 1 tailback spot himself in 1980.
''Since I hadn't been a running back in high school I had to learn everything from scratch,'' Marcus recalls. ''At first I even took the ball wrong, like I was making a basket catch in baseball. I used to reach out for it, instead of having the quarterback tuck it into my arm.''
Despite the time-consuming aspects of big-time college football, Allen intends to graduate with his class in June. He notes that he started his senior year needing 32 units, and took 16 of them this fall.
''My sophomore year, when I was playing fullback, I took 17,'' he said in an interview for a college publication. ''That was a heavy load for me then. One teacher got on my case because I was struggling a little, and she told me I took too many units. But that's what I wanted to do and I did OK.
''I think if I took 12 units, which is all you need according to the rules, I'd slack off too much. I need to put pressure on myself to keep going. One of my problems in school is that I procrastinate, although when I put pressure on myself I do well.
''My mother always said that when sports came I was the first one out the door. With anything else, including household chores, I definitely took my time. My mom says I'm slower than Christmas.
''One thing about my father: He really disciplined us (six kids). We never had to go without anything, but we used to get some pretty good spankings. But I'm glad, because a lot of parents don't care about their children. They're always out in the street. He cared about us.''
Allen's statistics for 1981: Opponent Carries Yds. Avg. TDs Tennessee 22 210 9.55 4 Indiana 40 274 6.85 2 Oklahoma 39 208 5.33 2 Oregon State 35 233 6.68 3 Arizona 26 211 8.12 1 Stanford 40 153 3.83 1 Notre Dame 33 147 4.45 1 Wash. State 44 289 6.57 3 Washington 38 155 4.08 0 California 46 243 5.28 3 UCLA 40 219 5.48 2 Totals 403 2,342 5.80 22