National signing day has a way of reducing the most mannish of high school football players to to a sobbing mess.
That’s what happened to Dunbar senior Jonathan Allen Wednesday. But it wasn’t because of his many coaches, teammates, classmates and family who were there to cheer him on during an in-school signing ceremony.
The massive offensive lineman offered “I want to thank most of all Jerry …” then broke down amid hoots and adoring hollers from students.
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That’s the kind of emotional bond that develops between one of Ohio’s most sought-after recruits and a trusted physical therapist.
Allen, whose senior season at Dunbar was derailed by a knee injury, signed to play at the University of Cincinnati.
It was the first day of the regular signing period for NCAA Divisions I and II football. Last December was the early signing period for football, the second year for that.
Allen was among many area seniors to sign binding national letters of intent on Wednesday. The signing period for D-I football runs through April 1 and Aug. 1 for D-II.
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Allen’s signing extends a relatively recent spike in area football talent choosing to play at UC. He also follows 2018 Dunbar grad Tavion Thomas there. A running back, Thomas progressively earned more playing time as a freshman with the Bearcats last season, who finished 11-2 in the American Athletic Conference under second-year coach Luke Fickell.
Other area products on UC’s current roster are junior Darius Harper (Springfield), sophomore Cody Lamb (Miamisburg) and freshmen Leonard Taylor (Springfield), Jake Tewart (Lebanon) and Colin Truett (Lebanon).
Also committing to UC on Wednesday was Butler senior receiver Bryant Johnson, who agreed to be a preferred walk-on. Wayne defensive back Justin Harris signed with UC in the early signing period.
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Allen, 6 feet 6 and 315 pounds, was among the state’s most sought-after offensive linemen and was wooed by Ohio State and other Big Ten programs. His recruiting status changed after he suffered a season-ending knee injury on Dunbar’s first drive of its season opener.
After undergoing knee surgery by Dr. Frank Mannarino. Allen bonded with Jerry Whetstone, Coordinator, Athletic Training Services at Kettering Medical Center and who was assigned as Dunbar’s athletics trainer this school year. No surprise Allen was anxious to recover as quickly as possible.
“It was a big injury,” said Whetstone amid Wednesday’s well-wishers. “We had to slow his rehab down. We put the brakes on a little bit to move forward. He’s come along well. We have great expectations for him.”
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Allen has since joined the Wolverines’ basketball team, but will not play. He was Dunbar’s returning leading scorer and rebounder from last season. He chose UC over Indiana and Kentucky. He also had offers from OSU and Penn State, which were among 46 NCAA D-I offers.
“I had family, which was the school, and my actual family to support me,” reflected Allen, a shutdown offensive tackle for Dunbar. “It was something. Jerry has been there from Day 1. As soon as he came here, we had a bond.”
It’s on first-year Dunbar coach Corey Freed to wonder what might have been. He inherited the position when Darran Powell was not retained in a sweeping turnover of Dunbar coaches from the previous school year. Dunbar recovered from an 0-3 start to finish 6-1.
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“It’s a big moment for him and the Dunbar community,” Freed said. “I know he’s going to represent us well with class and dignity.”
• There were at least 11 area seniors who signed to play football during the early period in December, including Alter quarterback Connor Bazelak. He said he’ll honor his pledge to Missouri, despite recent sanctions against the program that will prevent the Tigers from playing in a possible SEC championship or bowl next season.
• Among those who didn’t sign were standouts RaHeim Moss of Springfield and Alter’s John Bivens. Moss had offers from UC for both football and basketball but has not verbally committed or even announced which sport he’ll pursue.
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Bivens was a much sought-after running back who missed his entire senior season while recovering from a severe knee injury his junior season.
• Many more area seniors signed for other sports on Wednesday, including Trotwood-Madison senior Amari Davis, who followed up on a verbal commitment to play basketball at Wisconsin-Green Bay.
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