By Jay Cook |
RUMSON – Everything you need to know about Elijah McAllister’s wild ride over the past year can be summed up in one picture on his Twitter page.
It’s located right at the top, pinned for him to see each and every day when he logs on – a pair of Tweets describing how McAllister is overhyped and undeserving of his first Division I college football offer that came in May of his freshman year.
“It’s just constant motivation for me,” McAllister said on Friday, right after an offseason lifting session. “Not everybody’s going to be your friend, not everybody’s going to be happy that you’re getting offers. The world’s not perfect. For me, I just stay focused. Only worry about yourself, feel me?”
That source of motivation has been pushing the 17-year-old Tinton Falls native to come back stronger, faster, and better than ever before for his final year at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School.
McAllister, who stands at 6’6” and weighing in at 235 pounds, is one of the most highly recruited Shore Conference football players in recent memory. The tight end/defensive end touts prototypical D-I size. He also doubles as the power forward/center on RFH’s basketball team.
After making his name on the gridiron and on the hardwood, McAllister’s athletic career buckled for the first time in June 2016. While playing in Los Angeles for Team Rio, an AAU basketball team with Ranney standouts Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis, McAllister went up to grab an offensive rebound. He landed on an opponent’s foot, tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
“I was devastated,” McAllister recalled. “I came into school on Monday morning, and I broke down crying.”
McAllister would make his way back to full health in January, when he returned to the 13-1 basketball team, ready to roll. Another bump in the road occurred only four games later. On Feb. 2 at Holmdel, McAllister would go up for a high pass, was undercut, and landed on his left knee. He said “I knew it right away,” that it was a torn ACL.
“The second one was much easier than the first, just because I knew what to expect,” he recalled. “I wasn’t down at all on myself – I was in high spirits because I knew what to do.”
Helping McAllister along the way have been a number of different people, from his dad Tyron to Rob Orrok, an RFH physical education teacher and volunteer defensive backs coach for the football team.
Orrok met McAllister when he came in for preseason workouts prior to his freshman year. The two created a tight bond, and Orrok has been there from the highs to the lows, aiding McAllister in his eventual comeback.
“He doesn’t take anything that happened to him as on a whim,” Orrok said. “Everything is in his control. He owns everything.”
It was in Orrok’s office where McAllister broke down and cried after revealing he couldn’t play football in his junior season.
It’s Orrok who is keeping McAllister’s return in check, reminding him that each day he doesn’t reinjure either knee, they’re getting stronger.
Orrok has been there and talked to every D-I football coach that’s visited RFH to inquire about the prototype tight end/defensive end hybrid.
“I just try to keep him calm,” Orrok said. “I think the expectations on him, that he puts on himself, are so high.”
“We’re trying to keep him level-headed and just slowly progressing,” he added.
With his recovery seemingly in check, McAllister is primed to start Week 1 when RFH travels to Hazlet to take on the Raritan Rockets. He was just cleared for contact on Wednesday, the best piece of news he’s received in well over a year.
And despite being sidelined for so long, McAllister still has the D-I offers to show for his talents. He currently has 21 football scholarship offers to his name, ranging up and down the east coast.
Here’s a quick look at some of the top-tier schools that want McAllister to join their college programs next fall: Michigan State, University of Tennessee, Boston College, Rutgers University, Syracuse University, Temple University, University of Virginia, and Wake Forest University.
McAllister also took a trip down south in July to work out for a bevy of southern powerhouse schools: University of Auburn, University of Georgia, University of South Carolina, Clemson University, University of North Carolina, and North Carolina State.
He also confirmed that Auburn and Purdue University would be making in-season visits to RFH home games, and that a trip to a South Carolina home game is in the works.
“I’m looking for a program that I can play and build it up,” McAllister said about his eventual choice. “I don’t want to be just another guy; I want to change programs.”
But before college coaches start making their final recruiting decisions, McAllister still has to hit the turf. So, what can the Shore Conference expect out of him this season?
“They can expect an angry man out there,” he said. “I haven’t played a down of football since December 6, 2015. I’m out there ready to prove myself that I’m ready of the offers I’ve gotten and that I’m a worthy teammate and leader.”
This article was first published in the August 10-17, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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