Coach’s discipline spells turnaround for Allen

Patrick Allen's life took a turn for the better after he got to Franklin High and was exposed to the highly-disciplined approach to football of coach Anthony Burgos. (AJC / CHIP TOWERS)

REISTERSTOWN, MD. — Patrick Allen and those close to him can laugh about it now. Or at least understand it. But what was going on when he was a rebellious middle-schooler wasn’t funny at all at the time.

When Minnie Moore first plucked her son out of his native St. Louis and plopped him back down in Northern Maryland, Allen didn’t like it one bit. And he made sure everybody knew it.

“I was bad; I was really bad,” says Allen, now a freshman offensive lineman for the Georgia Bulldogs. “I couldn’t control anything. I didn’t want to be here. I’d get in arguments and fights, stuff like that.”

Moore’s job with a credit card processing company required her to transfer to Owings Mill, Md., right before her son was about to move up to middle school. Initially, the move was expected to be temporary and Allen stayed behind with family. But once she got settled into the area, Moore decided to make it permanent. So she sent for her son.

“I didn’t want to come,” Allen recalls. “I was saying, ‘I don’t want to be here; I don’t know nobody here.’ She said it was different, it was better. Basically I was forced to come.”

And trouble soon followed.

“He was unhappy,” his mom said. “He didn’t like Maryland at all. He didn’t like the kids at first. They were rude to him. The only way he could fit in was to hang with the wrong crowd. So he got into some trouble.”

At first it was little stuff, but then it mushroomed in the seventh grade. Allen got into a fight at school and broke the kid’s nose. He was suspended for 10 days, police were called in and Allen ended up on eight months probation.

“They thought it was gang-related but it really wasn’t,” Allen said. “It was just this bigger kid messing with us. I had to do community service and go to these programs and stuff so I wouldn’t have a record.”

Fortunately for Allen – and perhaps his enemies – he found football. His first encounter with organized sports was with basketball as an eighth-grader. And then Anthony Burgos and the Franklin High football coaches got hold of him the summer before ninth grade.

Not only did football provide Allen with an outlet for channeling his anger and utilizing his size and brute strength, it also provided him with a level of discipline he’d never experienced.

“Practice started every day at 6 a.m., but we had to be on the field dressed and ready to go by 5:30 or you were late,” Allen says. “So I used to get up at 4:45 and walk to the school.”

Burgos utilized a punitive system of discipline at Franklin. If you were late, you got a tally. If you were caught walking on the field, a tally. If you cussed, you got a tally.

“And poor effort, man, Coach hates that,” Allen says. “That was two tallies.”

For every tally, offenders would get to run the big hill behind Franklin High. That is, after practice and post-practice conditioning.

It didn’t take long with Burgos and offensive line coach Mark Agent and Allen found himself a changed man.

“Aw, he was like a lot of kids his age, just acting up on the bus, throwing stuff at people, just doing silly eighth-grade stuff,” Burgos said. “I think that was part of the maturity process when he got here as a ninth grader. He just kind of settled down and started figuring things out. It was his 10th grade year when the light really went on for him. He was like, ‘wait a minute, I can do something special with this game.'”

For that revelation, Allen gives his high school football coaches a lot of credit.

“They were really big influences for me,” says Allen, who graduated from Franklin as one of the school’s most decorated players in history. “Coach Burgos taught me the responsibilities of being a man and doing what I needed to be on the field. And Coach Agent taught me how to be a great lineman. I wouldn’t be here without them.”

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