Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills (University of Wyoming)
The most important position in sports is a team’s quarterback. Quarterbacks are leaders, field generals, but most importantly, they are in charge of scoring points and winning football games. Quarterbacks are often looked on to be the face of a school, a team, and sometimes the face of an entire city. Even though these players seem to be the center of attention, it is not always the case. Sometimes the player looked on to turn around one of the NFL’s most success-stricken franchises is the quarterback that no one wanted.
Now don’t let that last line fool you, when the Buffalo Bills selected Josh Allen 7th overall out of the University of Wyoming in the 2018 draft, fans were ecstatic about his arrival. The excitement was proved in many ways, including in the form of merchandise, where Allen’s jersey ranked 4th among 2018 rookie jersey sales in the offseason. The popularity and attention he is garnering after his first-round selection is something new to Allen, quite simply because he hasn’t ever really been a team’s first priority before. Coming out of Firebaugh, California Allen starred in football, basketball and baseball during his time at Firebaugh High School. The wide-framed, strong Allen that we see today didn’t exist back in high school, and despite some excellent numbers in high school he had trouble finding places to continue his football career. Growing up just a short drive from the campus of Fresno State, Allen reached out to the Bulldogs coaching staff for an opportunity to quarterback the Bulldog offense in his college years. Long story short, they weren’t interested, and the same could be said for a couple hundred other Division 1 schools. So yes, you are reading that right. The 7th overall pick in this past years NFL draft did not have one scholarship offer coming out of high school. Persistently so, Allen attended Reedley Junior College, a place that would allow him to play quarterback at the collegiate level. After becoming the starter four games into the season, Allen went on to throw 25 touchdowns while only throwing four interceptions. Many at Reedley thought the scholarship offers would finally come flooding in, especially considering Allen sent out mass emails to essentially every college team in the country. Flooding might not be the right term, but Eastern Michigan and Wyoming did finally give him an offer. After one final pitch to the coaching staff at Fresno State, Josh Allen ultimately decided to become a Wyoming Cowboy.
In his first year at Wyoming the mettle of this young man would once again be tested, as his first career Division one start would end abruptly in the form of a season-ending broken collarbone. Allen responded in a major way, finishing his last two years and career as a Cowboy by amassing over 5,000 yards passing and throwing for 44 touchdowns and running in 12 more scores. Allen entered the draft as the small-school darling, similar to Carson Wentz just a few years prior.
Allen joins a Buffalo Bills team that just came off their first postseason appearance since 1999, where a final-minute touchdown drive by the Cincinnati Bengals in week 17 knocked off the Baltimore Ravens, allowing the Bills to slip in the final Wild Card spot in the AFC. Despite a successful 2017 campaign, the Bills are regarded as one of the lower-tier teams in a competitive AFC, especially considering their division includes the perennial powerhouse New England Patriots and the surprisingly talented New York Jets. Buffalo chose to start the season with the rather unimpressive Nathan Peterman behind center, and the Bills were thrashed 47-3 in their season opening game against the Ravens. Much to the delight and relief of the rabid Bills Mafia fan base, Allen was named the starter for last week’s game against the Chargers. Despite losing 31-20, Allen managed to throw for 245 yards and a touchdown, spreading the ball around to ten different pass-catchers in the process. Allen did throw two interceptions, something that experts say might be a small problem with the young and developing quarterback and an issue that many fantasy gurus have with the Wyoming product. With that being said, Allen does appear to most Bills fans as the future of the team, and they would prefer to see him in the starting lineup in 2018 over the struggling Peterman who has vastly less upside than Allen.
Josh Allen is finally getting his chance on the grandest of stages to compete at the highest level playing the position he knows he can play well. Luckily for him, he is playing in front of arguably the most passionate and loving fanbase in North American sports. As loved as he was in Wyoming with the passionate fans in Laramie and across the state, Bills fans and coaches believe he is the future of football in Buffalo and will give him his fair chance to prove himself. Having Lesean McCoy in his backfield along with sure-handed tight end Charles Clay and playmaking Kelvin Benjamin at wideout, the Bills boast a pretty competitive offense with players that can assist Allen’s development. After starting the season 0-2, Buffalo will need it’s young quarterback to produce soon if they want a chance to reach the postseason in back-to-back years.