Why Drew Allar, after a year of waiting, is now the face of Penn State football
Being vocal wasn’t second nature to Drew Allar. When he first got to Penn State in January 2022 he would lead by example, not yet the starting quarterback of the team, and didn’t make his voice heard often.
That has begun to change as he’s come out of his shell, and there’s a primary culprit. In fact, it’s something that brings out the smack talk from Allar without hesitation.
“We used Madden as an icebreaker,” Zane Durant said. “When we was in the dorms when we first moved in, that’s how we got Drew to actually talk. He’d talk trash on the game. He’d never really talk outside of that, but when he’d get on the game he’d talk trash because he’s very competitive.”
The long running football franchise isn’t the only video game that gets Allar going. It’s really all of them.
“I think it’s just video games for me in general,” he said with a smile. “... Madden, I don’t know I think the game just makes me mad easily for some reason. I don’t really know why. I think that just kind of brings out my competitiveness and for some reason I start talking a lot.”
The competitive fire that comes out of the quarterback is already transferring to team settings — a necessity given his status.
Allar is the focal point of the program and will be charged with taking the mantle as its undisputed leader.
That won’t be easy for the second-year quarterback. He’s supplanting a four-year starter in Sean Clifford and also filling a void left by some of the best leaders in recent program history in Ji’Ayir Brown and PJ Mustipher.
He knows there’s work to be done from that standpoint and is up for the challenge.
“We need leaders to step up,” Allar said. “... I’m really excited to just go through these winter workouts and start developing my leadership skills. ... To be a great team, we need to be a player-led team.”
Some of that will come from earning the respect of his teammates by the way he attacks workouts and other team activities, and some will come from the way he carries himself around them.
There’s a level of vociferousness that comes with it that he may not always possess — even if it comes out in spurts — but that should come in due time.
In the meantime, he’s focusing on doing what he can to develop his talent on the field in order to grow off it.
“(I want to) get faster, get faster and bigger,” Allar said. “Because you can never be too fast, you can never be too big. I’ve definitely cleaned up my diet since I’ve gotten back. The nutrition staff has helped me a ton and so has the whole strength staff — helping me do whatever I need to do to get bigger, faster, stronger.”
And right now, that should be the focus. His leadership matters less if he isn’t producing on the field. And while Penn State head coach James Franklin said he’s happy with Allar and fellow second-year quarterback Beau Pribula, there is an assumption that is made with who will start.
That should — and likely will — be Allar. Every position room is coming into this offseason with a clean slate, but at the end of the day somebody has to take the field with the starters.
“There’s going to be competition kind of across the board at all these positions,” Franklin said. “But as you know we are going to have to put somebody out there first based on how the season ended and Drew’s role last year, then that would be him.”
Starting, of course, is not the goal for the quarterback who so many fans have put their hopes and dreams on. Those aspirations should be much higher.
He already has 20-1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy at some sportsbooks, tying him for seventh shortest in the country, and is expected to lead a team that has a legitimate chance to make the College Football Playoff for the first time in program history. Despite those lofty expectations continuing to swirl around him, Allar remains locked in on what he wants. Right now, that’s to get better this offseason.
“I don’t look too much into that,” he said. “I mean, we’re not even into spring ball yet. We just started our first winter workout today. I’m just preparing to get better each day, working on the things I need to fix with my game.”
There was joy in Allar’s reaction as he spoke about why video games bring that competitive fire out of him. He spoke with confidence and poise, but his words were an acknowledgment of something deeper inside him. A streak of ambition that burns so brightly it surprises those watching the usually calm and cool quarterback.
That’s a good thing. Because the clock has begun ticking. It’s now his program and his offense to lead. He’ll be the one that has to answer for its flaws and get the credit for its successes.
After a year of waiting in the shadow of Clifford, Allar’s time has come.
He’s now the face of Penn State football.