FIREBAUGH, Calif. — Sports Central’s Scott Bemis got to experience the AFC Championship through the eyes of the people who know Josh Allen best Sunday.
In Brady Jenkins’ garage, only a few hundred yards from where Allen played football at Firebaugh High School, there was a nervous anticipation in the air at a small party being hosted by Jenkins.
“I’m trying to throw up,” said Matt Diedrich, a former Firebaugh assistant football coach when Josh was playing there. “It’s nerve-wracking watching him play, just the excitement.”
The group gathered at Jenkins’ house — Jenkins himself was a Firebaugh football assistant during Josh’s high school days — also included Josh’s former high school principal, and at one point, Josh’s aunt and uncle, Cindy and Mike Best, who live down the street from Jenkins.
“It’s just really indescribable,” said Cindy. “Beyond being proud, it’s our nephew, and he’s our nephew first, and (it’s) just a bonus that he’s an NFL quarterback.”
Meantime, nearly two thousand miles away in Kansas City, Josh’s former head coach at Firebaugh, Bill Magnusson, had a slightly better view of the game, in row 21 at Arrowhead Stadium.
“I’m really bad at adjectives,” said Magnusson over the phone, in trying to describe what it was like to watch his former player start at quarterback in the AFC Championship Game. “Surreal, unbelievable, incredible.”
Other members of the Allen family also made the trip to Kansas City for the game, including Josh’s three siblings and his mother.
One person who wasn’t able to make it though, was Josh’s father Joel, who watched the game back in Firebaugh at a neighbor’s house, while continuing to recover from a recent bout with pneumonia and COVID.
“It was pretty cool to see Josh in that game and in that moment,” said Joel over the phone shortly after the game.
But although Josh and the Bills made things interesting by taking an early 9-0 lead, the Chiefs and their multitude of offensive weapons ultimately proved to be too much for Buffalo, but those who know Josh best say better days are ahead.
“How can you be bummed out?” said Magnusson. “The guy’s playing in the AFC Championship Game, (and) he’s from Firebaugh California.”
“Win or lose, he’s got a career ahead of him,” said Diedrich. “And he’s got a lot of love and support from this town (Firebaugh).”
“Don’t hang your head, keep fighting you know,” said Joel. “It’s not the outcome that we wanted, but you played like a warrior like you always do, and better days are coming.”