Chase Allen was the ‘missing piece’ from last season’s offense

Tight end Chase Allen practiced with the team at fall camp on Aug. 4 despite being hit by a car in late July outside Bergstrom Football Complex in Ames.

Austin Anderson

Chase Allen said he’s told the story a thousand times, which makes sense because you might have to hear it a thousand times before you believe it.

Few human beings can survive a car-on-man car crash that leaves them with 103 stitches and pieces of broken windshield glass lodged in their back.

Fewer are able to hop up and walk it off.

Practically none return to practice within a week.

Allen is the exception. 

It’s a story of Wolverine meets Superman, the one that gets passed down from generation to generation, the kind of story your friend’s cousin heard from his buddy and swears on his life is true, despite it seeming impossible.

It’s the story Allen found himself living on a Thursday night in July.

Allen had just finished workouts at the Iowa State football facilities and was about to cross the street right outside Jack Trice Stadium. Allen and the driver of the car saw each other the whole time.

Allen thought the car was slowing down so he took a step into the four-lane road. The driver thought Allen was going to wait. Neither had time to think; it happened so fast.

Allen jumped.

His left knee broke the front right headlight, his back smashed into the windshield, breaking the windshield into pieces.

He flipped over the car and lay there in the street. Allen didn’t know if his hips were broken or if he was in such a shock he just couldn’t feel the pain.

Then he hopped up, almost like he had tripped and fell on a crack in the sidewalk, not like he was seconds removed from being hit by a speeding car.

“Someone was definitely looking out for us,” Allen said.

Iowa State coaches drove him immediately to the emergency room, where he got his back stitched up and the rest of the windshield glass removed from his skin. He never hit his head, and his knee was fine.

Seven days later, on the very next Thursday, Allen was practicing again.

He was one of the prized recruits in coach Matt Campbell’s first recruiting class. ESPN ranked him as the No. 12 tight end in the 2016 class, and he chose Iowa State over offers from some of the most prestigious programs in the country like Michigan and Florida State.

He had a chance to play as a true freshman, with his talent and lack of other solid options at the tight end position. But as soon as he was out of the hospital after the crash, he was back in it.

Allen was diagnosed with mumps. His hopes of playing and contributing during his true freshman season were dwindling.  

Mumps was a setback, but the worst was still yet to come.

After he recovered he got a secondary infection of meningitis that put him back in the hospital for four days. He lost 20 pounds during the opening week of the season against Northern Iowa.

“It definitely wasn’t what I planned to happen when I first got to college,” Allen said.

Allen got healthy as the season progressed, and earlier this spring, tight end coach Alex Golesh admitted he made his pitch to Campbell to get Allen on the field. But Campbell held off, keeping Allen’s redshirt intact.

It’s undeniable Allen would have made an impact on the field if Murphy’s Law wasn’t in effect last season. The tight end position has only produced 12 total catches for the Cyclones in the last two seasons combined.

“I feel like there’s things that I could have done last year maybe in the pass game,” Allen said. “Maybe just giving our guys a break now and then that could have maybe opened things up more.”

Saturday during the spring game was Allen’s first live game action of his Cyclone career. An opportunity he’s “been yearning for.”

Allen only had one catch but it was in the midst of a 75-yard drive. Allen was lined up out wide as a wide receiver when quarterback Jacob Park took the snap out of shotgun. Allen ran a quick hitch route and caught the ball two yards past the line of scrimmage. He made the first defender miss on his way to 13 yards after the catch. A 15-yard completion that set up a 20-yard touchdown run from Mike Warren on the next play.

“He’s got such high-end ability,” Campbell said. “He went through some adversity early last year and that’s never easy when it comes that fast and that adverse. I think that’s a lot more [about] who he is.”

On the Warren run, Allen was lined up directly to the left of the left tackle as a blocker, which is the aspect of his game he feels he improved the most on while he sat out last season.

“I know what I’m doing now,” Allen said.

Lining up outside as a receiver is also part of Allen’s repertoire. He has the frame at 6 foot 6, 235 pounds to be a matchup nightmare for smaller cornerbacks on the outside, and the speed and quickness to outrun linebackers when he’s lined up in the slot or inline as a traditional tight end.

“Chase is going to make a lot of people very angry,” Park said with a dramatic pause, “when it comes to game planning because the kid can do everything. He can line up outside and catch a fade. My man can run over the middle and catch the ball, catch the ball in traffic and take hits. He can block. He was a piece we were missing last year.”