Oct. 22, 2013
By Brock Lewandowski, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
The intensity of toughness and of emotion is the same quiet intensity of a driven individual for senior linebacker Denicos Allen.
"I definitely bring emotion," said Allen. "If anyone makes a big play, I'm the first one there to celebrate. I definitely bring the hype for every game. I think I bring a lot of energy to this team when it comes to game day.
"I'm kind of a low-key, quiet guy in the locker room, but when it's time to strap up and go to war, I'm that guy who's up and yelling in everybody's face. I'm rowdy, so I think there are those two sides to me."
This duality of his attitude is linked by passion. Allen talks a cool game, as he said, "I'm just a guy trying to make it," but he is clearly in tune with what drives him.
"I want them to remember me as the toughest 5-10 linebacker that ever played here," Allen said. "I think I'm the smallest linebacker in the Big Ten right now, but I feel like I'm one of the toughest. I bring it to anyone. I don't care who it is; I'm going to bring it. I just want people to know that this guy is tough.
"I think that comes from how I was raised. I was raised to defend myself no matter what. It was always me and brother; he was a year older than me. My cousins were years older than me. Because of that, I learned at a young age to be tough and never back down from anyone.
"Growing up being the smaller, shorter guy, I was just competitive. I never want to lose. It's hard to be someone tough."
A native of Hamilton, Ohio, Allen has always fought to prove himself. During high school, he performed on two stages.
"I wrestled," he recalled. "I think I only wrestled for a year and a half and made it to the state championship. I guess that was a secret talent that I didn't even know about until my junior year of high school."
In terms of football, Allen had a further journey and more challenges to overcome.
"I had to go through a lot being an undersized linebacker," noted Allen. "There were a lot of challenges I had to overcome. Basically, it was just my coach and I working with the coaching staff here. They gave me an opportunity and I recognized they believed in me. I just ran with it. I had to show them that they made a good decision.
"I thank my coaching staff in high school, specifically Coach Chris Wells. He's a great guy and he pushed me to the max. If he ever thought I was down or I wasn't going as hard I could, he would get at me and make me go harder, harder than I thought I could."
Through this perseverance, Allen earned a spot among the Spartan ranks, although the transition to life in East Lansing was not easy.
"There's a huge difference," he said. "There are more people my age. It's kind of bigger, more buildings and more nice spots to go. I like meeting new people, there's always someone new to meet here. I feel like in my city, I always knew most of the people. Here, there's always something new to do. There's always something new going on. There's a surprise everyday.
"When I was in high school, I didn't talk to anyone. I talked to my friends and that was it. Anyone else, I was hesitant to talk to them aside from saying hi. Coming all the way up here to Michigan State and not knowing anyone on the team, I was forced to start meeting people."
The relationships he forged with his teammates are simple, but significant.
"We just hang out," Allen said. "We go out, joke around and have fun. One of my teammates in particular, Chris Norman, we were roommates for a couple of years and he's just a funny guy. He's outspoken and says what's on his mind. He's always positive. He's definitely a good person to be around.
"The favorite memory that I have was at the Outback Bowl. It was New Year's Eve and it was just a few teammates and I. We were in the lobby and we stayed up the whole night. We stayed up until three in the morning. We just sat there, cracked jokes and had a ball. We just watched people walk through the hotel and had a fun time. We were stuck in the hotel on New Year's Eve and it's something we all look back at. It's just little things like that."
The feelings shared between members of the Spartan family are something Allen attributes to the people leading the team.
"It's definitely a family here," he explained. "We definitely feel that connection. We've got a different vibe on this team than I think most team's do. I think it's mainly because of the coaching staff here and what they sell to us.
"They treat us like it's a family, so we feel like it's a family. I give the credit to the coaches and to my teammates for buying into it, to not be stuck up in their own attitudes. They're willing to give up things for the team instead of just going their own way."
For the sociology major, his time at MSU is just part of a larger plan to return to his hometown and pursue his passions.
"I like my city because that's where I was raised," he said. "There are just certain memories that will stick with me forever.
"I just want to do something to make a change. Coming from the inner city, I see a lot of less fortunate kids with talents like mine. They have the ability I do, but they just don't have the right foundation. I just want to be there to provide that for people. I just want to make a change in my neighborhood and neighborhoods like mine."
Getting to Know Denicos Allen
If you could be any actor, who would you be?
"I would have to say Gerard Butler. I like his acting style. He's always in intense movies and I'm kind of an intense guy."
What is one thing you miss from home?
"Skyline Chili. You can't get that here. You can ask any guy from Ohio, that's something they would definitely like to have up here."
What is your favorite exotic animal?
"The lion. I'm a leo and I feel like I'm the king of the concrete jungle. We've got a lot in common. I've got the heart of a lion and I even have it tattooed on me."
Did you know...
Allen ranks sixth in MSU history with 35 tackles for loss and seventh with 16 sacks.
This feature was originally published in the Oct. 19 edition of Michigan State Football Gameday Magazine.