Sometimes, less can be more.
Coming out of Woodland High as an All-State running back, Prospect’s Sean McAllen received two college offers, but he was perfectly content. Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts offered him the academic excellence he sought with the opportunity to play right away.
“Coming from a construction background, I always wanted to do something with engineering, and I fell in love with civil engineering when I was looking at schools,” McAllen said. “During my visit to WPI, I really enjoyed the atmosphere and loved the coaches. I also loved the academics, how well the school is rated for engineering and the great job they do getting their graduates jobs. I definitely made the right choice for myself.”
According to WPI football coach Chris Robertson, McAllen made the right choice for the Engineers as well.
Only four games into his junior season, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound McAllen is already sixth in WPI history in career rushing yards with 2,401 and is on pace to set school records for rushing yards and rushing touchdowns next season.
Last weekend, McAllen earned the New England Football Writers Association’s Division II/III Gold Helmet Award for his 160-yard, four-touchdown performance against Becker College. It marked only the third time in WPI history one of its players had earned the honor.
Robertson isn’t surprised because he saw something special in McAllen.
“If you watch the highlights he put together from his senior year, you see a running back who has the rare combination of top-end speed at the high school level and power to run through tackles,” Robertson said. “At our level here, we don’t get a lot of young men who have that combination. Sean was not only a speed kid, but he was a weight-room kid as well. He was one of those special kids in our freshman class three years ago that we felt could compete for a starting job right away.”
Robertson said that early in training camp as a freshman, McAllen separated himself from the team’s other running backs.
“He ended up starting right out of the gate for us, and he has started every single game since,” Robertson said. “The best part about him is that he is an outstanding young man who is very humble. He comes from phenomenal people with a great background of strong family values. His recruiting visit was icing on the cake for us, really letting us know that he was somebody special that we really wanted.”
Robertson said McAllen’s character makes him constantly strive to work on his strength, speed and ability to make defenders miss. He’s already had 10 career 100-yard games in his 24 at WPI. He has averaged more than a touchdown per game with 27 so far.
He is only nine rushing touchdowns shy of the school record set by Dave Ceppetelli from 1989-92 with 36. He also needs just 1,375 yards to break Jason Woodley’s 25-year-old career rushing record of 3,776. If McAllen continues at his current pace, he would finish at WPI with 4,129 yards and 42 touchdowns.
“I am not really a big stats guy,” McAllen said. “My approach is to come in and win each day at a time and win each game at a time. I don’t look too far into the future. I just have to win the day first. Whatever the team needs me to do, I am going to do. If they need me to block for my quarterback all the time, I’ll do that. Whatever the game plan is, you have to trust Coach 100 percent.”
Robertson’s game plan is to get the ball to McAllen as many times as he can. He said opponents have started stacking the box with eight defenders, but McAllen still gets his yards and also makes them pay as a fourth or fifth receiver on screens and swing passes.
“We run a lot between the tackles, and Sean does a good job of powering his way through,” Robertson said. “He is not breaking five, six tackles, but once he gets past that initial point of attack, he is excellent in the open field. He has great vision, he can make people miss, but the best thing is he has that extra gear where he can run around people that maybe have an angle on him.
“He is probably the best open-field tailback that I have ever coached. I had one kid when I coached Division I who may have been just as good. But when Sean is in the open field, he is off to the races. Even at our level, and this is very good football, there is nobody that I have seen catch him in the open field.”