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Featherweight in a heavyweight sport: Vista Ridge's Emon Allen plays like a giant

Rick Cantu
Austin American-Statesman
Vista Ridge senior Emon Allen, breaking free for a 97-yard touchdown run against Tomball Memorial in a playoff game, has been a triple threat for the Rangers as a receiver and a cornerback and on special teams.

From the time he picked up a ball as an elementary school student, Emon Allen was a little different from the other boys on campus.

For starters, he was always a few inches shorter than his classmates. He could compensate for his lack of height because he was faster than everybody else. Whether they were playing tag or football or just running a straight line, young Emon showed he was an athlete for all seasons.

The chapters of his athletic life have been filled with pages of fun and glory. As a three-sport competitor at Vista Ridge High School, Allen has established himself as one of the most dynamic football players in the area. And for the second consecutive year, he has used his versatility on offense, defense and special teams to land a spot on the Austin American-Statesman All-Central Texas football team.

Generously listed as 5 feet 9 and 160 pounds, the Ranger senior has never used his lack of size as an excuse. He knows he is a featherweight in a heavyweight sport. On the contrary, he has the athletic ability and a you-can’t-beat-me attitude that have made him one of the most popular players in the area.

“If you bring the heat to the opposition, you’ll be better off,” he said. “Don’t wait for the defender to bring the fight to you; it’s up to you to take the fight to the defender.”

Perhaps his fighting spirit comes from a man who sleeps down the hall. Emon’s father is Taje Allen, a former University of Texas cornerback who played six seasons in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs. In 2000 he was part of the Rams team that won Super Bowl XXXIV with a nail-biting finish against the Tennessee Titans.

“Scariest moment of my life,” he said.

Taje was referring to the game’s pivotal moment. Trailing 23-16 in the last minute, Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair threw a quick slant to Kevin Dyson, who was tackled 1 yard short of the goal line as the final seconds ticked off the clock, securing the Rams' victory.

Taje said he wears his Super Bowl ring only on special occasions. Emon describes his dad as a behind-the-scenes parent who never forced him to play sports. Taje attends most Vista Ridge games but rarely comments on how his son plays.

“I’ve got three boys and one daughter, but I always wanted them to feel comfortable in whatever they’re doing,” he said. “I wanted to drive home the fact that just because their father played a particular sport, that had no impact on them.”

Emon laughs when reminded that he usually is the smallest player on the field.

“I get that from my mom, who’s about 5-2,” Emon said. “But I got her speed, too.”

Gladys Allen also was a natural athlete, excelling in track at Lubbock Estacado High. Taje, who was Gladys’ high school sweetheart at Estacado, lends advice to his son only when he asks for it.

Emon Allen has been a do-it-all player during his three seasons of varsity football. Vista Ridge head coach Rodney Vincent has said that Allen is the player whom every other team “must account for.”

Allen was having another brilliant season until he broke his collarbone against Hutto. The Rangers lost two of the three games Allen missed, including a bi-district playoff against Hays, a team Vista Ridge had beaten 62-35 in the season opener.

Vista Ridge senior Emon Allen (1), speaking with quarterback Kyle Brown, once surprised Brown by throwing "an absolute dime" to his longtime friend at practice. Allen was a key figure in Vista Ridge's offense as a slot receiver.

Rangers offensive coordinator Todd Brown, whose son is 2019 Class 6A all-state quarterback Kyle Brown, recalls seeing greatness in Allen very early.

“When Emon was a freshman, we inserted him into the varsity sprint relay for the first time at the area meet, and we cut over a second off our time,” Todd Brown recalled. “We went from being seeded fifth to getting second and qualifying for the regional track meet.”

Allen’s football future did not end when he broke his collarbone. He recently signed a letter of intent to play this fall at Sam Houston State. The same set of skills that made a lasting impression at Vista Ridge caught Bearkats head coach K.C. Keeler’s attention.

“Emon’s a physical and aggressive football player we project as a cornerback for us,” Keeler said. “He was also an explosive player on offense and in the return game that will translate well as a playmaker on defense.”

For now, Allen is concentrating on his role with the Rangers' varsity basketball team. When the weather heats up, he will rejoin his track and field teammates for sprints and relays.

No matter what time of year it is, there is something for Allen to do. He can also look back at a job well done on the gridiron. He recalls a funny story about Kyle Brown, his friend since the seventh grade.

“One day at practice I wanted to play quarterback, and I threw him an absolute dime,” Allen recalled. “We were laughing about it for days. He always thought I couldn’t throw a football because I’m left-handed.”

Just another example of Emon Allen taking the heat to the opposition.