Marcus Allen walked briskly through the hallways of Upper Marlboro (Md.) Wise on his way to the varsity coach's classroom.
He didn't know he was just minutes away from a conversation that would set his football future into motion, that would allow him to gain nearly 20 scholarship offers before the end of his junior year. For now, near the end of his freshman season, he just knew coach DaLawn Parrish wanted to chat with him.
He could feel his heart thumping in his chest, and he wondered what Parrish could possibly have to say. Was it good? Was it bad? Was it about an injury that allowed him to play just four JV games? Was it about a teammate?
"Everybody gets nervous when Coach Parrish wants to talk to you," Allen said. "Everybody."
The coach motioned the freshman linebacker inside, and the two stood across from one another. Parrish, a former defensive back at Wake Forest, told Allen -- who had undergone a four-inch growth spurt, from 5-foot-8 to 6-1 -- that he wanted him to move up to varsity.
Allen shook his head. He was hesitant. He had played in just four games, and scholarships weren't on his mind at that point; playing with his friends was. And when Parrish mentioned moving to safety, Allen couldn't believe it. He had no experience with that position at all.
"A lot of times, young men are apprehensive," Parrish said. "They don't know just how good they really are. And I knew he was going to be special."
Parrish began sketching out Cover-2 diagrams on the dry eraseboard behind him. It might as well have been advanced algebra because, Allen admitted, he had no idea what he was looking at. He wasn't even sure what a safety's role was.
The coach, a man with closely cropped hair and a thin goatee, then asked Allen to backpedal right there in the classroom. He laughed slightly when Allen clumsily tried to run backward. Allen didn't agree to move up right then, but it was a start.