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Marcus Allen’s nephew Harrison is shining at Dorsey but fashion is his calling

Dorsey running back Harrison Allen after a game.
Dorsey running back Harrison Allen after a game.
(Luca Evans / For The Times)

Everyone else is playing in slow motion. For Harrison Allen, who seems to glide more than he runs, this game is moving at a different speed for him.

In the third quarter of Dorsey High’s contest against View Park on Friday night, the senior running back catches a kickoff and twirls his way through overmatched red-and-black jerseys like he’s practicing a ballet routine. As he’s finally ran down around the 40-yard line, his teammates jump up and down on the sidelines in an outpouring of glee reserved for teammates who are simply special.

“That’s my boy Harrison Allen,” said freshman offensive lineman Andre Johnson. “You’re gonna see him on Saturdays in a couple of years.”

For anyone catching even the slightest glimpse of Allen run — say, him taking Dorsey’s first play from scrimmage for a 40-yard touchdown — they would assume he’d be showing out on college fields in the years to come. That’s the conventional path.

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But it isn’t Allen’s. He’s pursuing a career in fashion after graduation.

“I feel like it was definitely expected of me to be [in Division I], go to college,” he said. “But I just want to do my own wave … do what I feel was best for me.”

Football is in Allen’s DNA, said Brian Hunter, who drove from San Diego to watch him play Friday. Allen’s uncle is legendary running back Marcus Allen, who played football at San Diego Lincoln High with Hunter and Allen’s father, Harold. The senior started playing at 8 years old and was a “Pop Warner sensation,” according to head coach Stafon Johnson.

Yet the heart doesn’t match the genes. Allen’s a special talent and has his fun, but doesn’t feel football is his future path. He ran for 13 touchdowns his sophomore year at Loyola, but sometimes felt the strict program was stressful.

“Football’s just more of an outlet,” he said. “I don’t really want to take it further, because I’m not serious enough or committed enough to do that.”

During the height of the pandemic, as football was put on hold, Allen spent his days in a downstairs den in his family’s home. He’d buy pairs of pants, cutting them up and stitching patterns together, wearing down sewing machine after sewing machine.

A now-graduated friend at Loyola got him connected with the founders of La Ropa, a trendy fashion brand that’s had customers ranging from Rihanna to Bella Hadid. After a summer internship, Allen is now prepared to accept a job offer from them after graduation. Since Loyola was a comprehensive college preparatory school and Allen was committed to not attending college, his parents made the decision to transfer him to Dorsey, he said.

He then made another monumental decision — he wasn’t going to play football his senior year.

“As a parent, as a dad, we had our battles,” Harold Allen said. “We did not want him to [quit], but he was very adamant about not going to play football and not going to college. He wanted to pursue his craft.”

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Johnson, heading into the school year, was hearing the whispers. Harrison Allen’s at Dorsey now. But he doesn’t want to play anymore.

“I just want to talk to him,” the Dons’ coach thought to himself. A former standout running back at USC, Johnson had his share of moments where he thought hard about stepping away. After his freshman year, his grandpa died. There for him, offering words of encouragement when Johnson was “in the dumps,” was none other than former Trojan Marcus Allen.

“Not saying that he’s going to USC, but it’s like he’s one of ours one way or another,” Johnson said of Harrison Allen. “I just felt as if I owed it just to have a conversation with him.”

Johnson kept trying to get word around. Finally, one day in mid-August, a teacher told him where Allen would be at P.E. and the coach tracked down Allen.

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Johnson told Allen he knew the pressures that came with football. He knew coaches could take the fun out of the game. Johnson just wanted to help Allen rediscover that fun — to have zero regrets in his senior season, no matter what he did after high school.

The next day, Allen told Johnson he’d be at practice the following week. The first time he touched the ball on an inside-zone play, Johnson immediately saw some of his former self in the kid — balance, vision, an uncanny feel for the game.

“I looked at the O-line coach, the O-line coach looked at me,” Johnson said, “and I just said, ‘Whenever he gets back, it’s going to get fun.’”

Allen had to sit out for a month because of transfer protocol. But in his three games once eligible, he’s ran for approximately 600 yards, Johnson estimates, while turbo-charging a Dorsey offense that steamrolled View Park 55-0. In that game, Allen rung up 185 yards and two touchdowns in just four carries.

“He’s a baller, man,” Johnson said.

The gaudy stats and Dorsey atmosphere might not change Allen’s mind about continuing his football career or going to college. If that’s the case, he, Johnson and his family are simply savoring what could be his final year in a football uniform.

“We’re focused on just trying to support him,” Allen‘s father said. “If it’s going to be fashion, let’s support that. If it’s going to be football, let’s support that. At the end of the day, he’s my son, first and foremost.”


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