It’s been a long time coming but change has come for Ravens Javorius “Buck” Allen

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— The Baltimore Ravens selected University of South Carolina (USC) running back Javorius “Buck” Allen with their second of three picks in the fourth round. Being selected in the 2015 NFL Draft was the culmination of the hard work that was fueled by the everyday struggle that Allen’s life has been in the past. He now has the chance to be able to provide for his family and ensure that he never has to return to the difficult lifestyle that he experienced as he was growing up.

Buck Allen, was raised by his grandmother in Miccosukee, Florida just outside of Tallahassee. His father wasn’t around and he had a strained relationship with his mother. The one person who served as a father figure to Allen was his brother Devon. Unfortunately, Devon went to prison when Buck was only 12 years old. Despite being in prison, Devon continued to have an impact on his younger brother’s life.

College wasn’t always something that Buck Allen was interested in. He may not have gone to college if it wasn’t for a phone call he got from Devon. Allen reflected on that conversation he had with his brother that changed his life.

“One day he called me and I talked to him.” Allen said. “He said that he heard I was doing good and asked me about college. I said, ‘man I don’t even think that I want to go to college’ and then he hung up on me. We had a long talk a couple of weeks later and it hit me, this was the turning point. I knew that I had to make things happen.”

Allen used to hang out at the Carrie Wilson Boys and Girls Club in his hometown Miccosukee. It was a place that offered refuge.

“When I was up there, I never worried about things like how to get the next meal or how am I going to get home,” he said. “I would just enjoy myself, and when that time came for it to close, I just figured it out from there.”

Mickey Cullen became the director at the Boys Club and took a special interest in Allen. He and his wife Alice would have Allen and his younger brother at their house for dinner frequently. They even gave him rides to practice and monitored his progress with teachers. Allen graduated from Lincoln High School in Tallahassee and was offered scholarships to Alabama, Auburn and USC. He chose USC.

Allen was the first person in his family to attend college. Football was the tool by which he would be able to blaze a new trail for the Allen family. Like many young men in the inner city, football provided structure. Buck always loved football even before he had the opportunity to own an actual football. He said that he used to play outside all by himself, using a pinecone for a football when he was younger. His grandmother saw him playing with the pinecone and put together enough money to buy him a football that he subsequently carried with him everywhere.

Things got rocky once again when Buck first got to USC. He struggled in the classroom and was stuck at the bottom of the depth chart on the football team. Allen was able to turn things around in the classroom where he majored in sociology. He was also able to get his opportunity on the football field thanks to a coaching change. He took full advantage of it by becoming a threat as both a runner and pass catcher.

Allen is driven by his love for the game and how it will allow him to put his family in a better situation. He said that it hurt him to go home and see the situation that his family was in and he felt that everyone was counting on him. That’s a high degree of pressure for a young man but Allen uses it to fuel his burning drive to be great.

Allen is convinced that the path that he has traveled has prepared him for the next step in his career.

“Pretty much, I had to fight to get what I want. Stuff was never handed to me,” Allen said. “Even growing up as a kid, living with my grandmother, it was never handed to me as a kid. You always had to figure out a way.”

Allen says that he never gave up on himself, even when he struggled in the classroom at USC and wasn’t getting a fair shot on the football field. He would receive encouragement from former USC greats such as Marcus Allen and Curtis Conway whose words hit home for Allen. Conway told him to believe in himself and know that he gave 100 percent. He told Allen to stay true to himself because that’s what he has done his whole life and it’s what got him to this point. Allen always believed that God wouldn’t give him more than he could handle.

Getting the phone call saying that the Ravens were going to draft him was a dream come true. Like many other little kids, Allen always dreamed of playing in the National Football League. He called it a blessing to be there with his younger brother and hear the Ravens say that he was their guy. Back when he was going through the struggle, Allen always believed that God would put him in great situations.

One of Allen’s favorite songs is “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke. That is a very fitting song for Allen and his change has finally come. “My time came, and I’m going to take full advantage of it. It is an unbelievable feeling.”