Firebaugh to the First Round: Part 1

Local News

Josh Allen’s journey to the NFL culminated with the seventh overall pick in last month’s NFL draft, but its roots are in Firebaugh, the small farming town of about 8,000 people on the west side of the Central Valley. 

Josh’s story is filled with a lot of things that make a great story compelling. 
A small-town star trying to get noticed. 
A hometown school overlooking a huge talent in their own backyard. 
And a family patriarch who laid the groundwork decades before. 

THE VISIONARY

“I was very fortunate enough to be here, obviously playing here in the gym where my grandfather’s name is on the plaque, it’s something very special to me.” 
-Josh Allen speaking in the Firebaugh High School gym on April 19th

The seeds of the Josh Allen story were planted by another Allen, Josh’s late grandfather Buzz. 

“He (Buzz) served as the Board President of the school board for approximately 14 years,” said Joel Allen, Buzz’s son and Josh’s father.  “It was his vision, along with a few other members of the community, to form this high school.” 

Because until 1976, if you were from the city of Firebaugh, you attended Dos Palos High School, which meant sometimes, the Firebaugh student-athletes got lost in the shuffle. 

“Buzz saw that and said ‘look we need to get a school here, and if I gotta donate the land to get us a school here, I’m gonna do it,'” said former Firebaugh High football coach Bill Magnusson.  

The gym at the school is still named in Buzz’s honor. 

“I don’t know if his grandpa ever in his wildest dreams thought Josh would be (a 1st-round NFL draft choice), said Magnusson.  “But you know what, he’s smiling right now.” 

THE SMALL-TOWN STAR 

“Being from Firebaugh, I don’t have to preach to you guys about being tough, cause Firebaugh is tough. It’s just how we’re born and raised here.”
-Josh Allen speaking in the Firebaugh High School gym on April 19th

From an early age, there were signs Buzz’s grandson Josh would fulfill his grandfather’s vision. 

“He slept with a football at night, and if he didn’t have that, Joel and I didn’t get to sleep,” said Lavonne Allen, Josh’s mother. 

As a four-year-old, he was already playing up in age and outperforming six year old’s on the tee-ball diamond, and on the soccer field, they called him Little Pele because he scored goals at will.

“He was just off the charts with the hand-eye coordination,” said Joel.  Everything he did, he made it look easy.” 

And during the summers, Josh would help out on his father’s farm, developing a work ethic that would help him overcome future obstacles. 

“He talks about how his dad is his inspiration,” said Magnusson. Getting up early, going out, doing things on the farm.” 

THE ADVERSITY 

“Throughout life, if you really have a goal in place, follow through with it.  Don’t give up until it’s done.  Don’t quit when things get hard.” 
-Josh Allen speaking in the Firebaugh High School gym on April 19th

Josh was a 3-sport star in high school; the leading scorer on the basketball team; and a pitcher with 90 mile per hour heat on the diamond.  And on the football field in high school, “he could probably wing it 60-65 (yards)” says Joel. 

“It reminded me of a gunslinger,” says Magnusson. 

But even though he grew to 6-foot-3 as a senior, and threw for 59 touchdowns in two years as Firebaugh’s starter, he had no scholarship offers out of high school.

And that included the school in his own backyard, Fresno State, coached at the time by Tim Deruyter. They had concerns about his slender frame. 

“The recruit coordinator from Fresno State was out there,” said Magnusson.  “And he kept saying, ‘yeah, we like him, he’s small, we like him, he’s small.'”

But Fresno State wasn’t the only school that didn’t see Josh’s college potential. 

“We shot emails out to just about everybody we could think of, and they have a database where you can actually send it to every head coach,” said Joel.  “There weren’t a lot of responses.” 

The Bulldogs showing passive interest really hurt because Josh’s parents were former Fresno State season ticket holders, and Josh had always dreamed of being a Bulldog.

And at one Fresno State camp for high school players after Josh’s junior season, the message was clear: his hometown school wasn’t that interested. 

“They separated the quarterbacks that they were really interested in, and Josh wasn’t one of them,” said Josh’s former offensive coordinator at Reedley College, Ernie Rodriguez.  “And he felt himself being the best quarterback out there.” 

“Later on he (Josh) told me, ‘dad, I’m so mad right now,'” recounted Joel.  “I said ‘just take a deep breath. It’s not the end of the world, gotta keep fighting, gotta keep fighting.'” 

Of course, Fresno state would end up regretting not offering him a scholarship, but in hindsight, it might have been a blessing in disguise for Josh, because that door closing opened up other opportunities. 
 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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