Southview junior Allen Gant makes a catch against St. Francis. Many major colleges are recruiting Gant as a defensive back including Ohio State and Michigan, where his father played.
<The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
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Southview's Allen Gant pulled in a 38-yard touchdown pass from Alex Pidcock as the final seconds of the first half of the 2008 Division II state championship game ticked off the clock.
But Gant, just a freshman then, caught more than just a touchdown that day to help the Cougars win the title.
He caught the attention of college coaches and recruiters in attendance who watched Southview take a 29-25 victory over defending champion Cincinnati Anderson.
Two years later, he receives letters and pamphlets daily from colleges and is regarded as one of Ohio's top junior football players.
“Because of Allen Gant I feel like I know the Tressel brothers pretty well,” Southview coach Jim Mayzes said, referring to Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel and his brother and assistant coach Dick Tressel.
Allen Gant was All-NLL first team defensive back last year, as well as a second-team wide receiver.
The Buckeyes are among the list of major programs that have shown interest in the 6-foot-1 , 208-pound junior safety/wide receiver.
Michigan, which is where his father, Tony, played, also has the three-year starter on its radar. He's made trips to Columbus and Ann Arbor for unofficial visits.
But plenty of schools are in the mix.
“I get probably a dozen letters almost every day,” Allen Gant said.
Last season Gant was All-Northern Lakes League first team as a defensive back and second team as a wide receiver.
Mayzes has coached several talented players who were highly sought by colleges.
Griff Whalen, who is a junior at Stanford, Shaun Joplin, who is a redshirt freshman at Bowling Green, and Jimmy Hall, who is a freshman at Northwestern, garnered plenty of attention in high school.
Yet, the Cougars' longtime coach is experiencing something new with Gant and his recruitment process.
“It's more than we've ever had,” Mayzes said. “Jimmy Hall got a ton of offers last year. Allen's just a junior and he's already getting more interest than Jimmy did.”
Gant has attracted plenty of attention early in his career because he's been someone who has been making plays at the varsity level right from the time he arrived in high school.
A two-way player, Gant has a team-leading 18 catches for 346 yards as a wide receiver, and has recorded 27 tackles and two interceptions as a safety for the 6-0 Cougars.
His playing future in college figures to be in the defensive secondary as a safety, just like his father, who played for the Wolverines during the 1980s.
“He may be a safety, but he talks like a linebacker and he can hit like a linebacker,” Mayzes said. “The thing with Allen is you want to play him at everything, but we're doing a more controlled approach, so Allen gets a little bit of rest.”
Allen admits he feels more comfortable playing defense than offense.
“I love the intensity of football and I love the hitting,” he said.
His enthusiasm for sports does not come as a surprise.
His father was a standout quarterback and free safety at Fremont Ross and won the 1981 James A. Rhodes Trophy as Ohio's most outstanding football player, topping Bernie Kosar, John Woolridge and Keith Byars for the award.
Allen's maternal grandfather is Chet Trail, who was a standout athlete at Libbey before he found his way into professional baseball. Trail, who is usually in attendance for Southview's home games, played minor league baseball, mostly in the New York Yankees organization including time with the Toledo Mud Hens.
Allen Gant made one of the biggest receptions in Southview history when he caught a tipped pass on the final play of the first half in the 2008Division II state championship game. The Cougars defeated Cincinnati Anderson to win the title.
“My biggest asset was I was smart,” Tony Gant said. “I had a high football IQ. Allen also has the physical attributes along with the nastiness and physicalness and you need all that.”
Mayzes has known of Allen's athletic ability since watching him participate in sports in elementary school where he was typically the biggest and fastest guy in his class. Yet, Mayzes found out when Allen arrived at Southview as a freshman that there was more to his skill set.
“Allen, as a freshman athlete, wasn't as good as some of those other guys, like [Shaun] Joplin, [Jimmy] Hall and [Bernard] Pinckney, but his work ethic was exceptional,” Mayzes said. “I always thought Allen helped our team get better that year because his work ethic helped us get through practice every day.”
Two years after being part of an 15-0 state title team, Allen is considered one of the team leaders. No one has more experience on the roster than him.
On top of that, he can get plenty of tips from family and relatives, including former Michigan standout Charles Woodson, who is a cousin through marriage. Woodson, a Heisman Trophy winner, plays for Green Bay in the NFL.
“He just gave me advice about when the ball is in the air, you have to become the receiver and go for the ball,” said Allen.
Gant regularly watches videotape of his games with his father tocritique his performance.
“Allen's biggest asset is he's coachable,” Tony said. “If you tell him the right things he will apply them. I teach him you have to make the tackles. Your job as a free safety is to prevent the touchdown.”
Gant still has plenty of time to decide his future.
“I want Allen to enjoy the whole recruiting process,” Tony said. “It's a once-in-a-lifetime process. I just want him to sit back and enjoy it.”
Contact Donald Emmons firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6302.