Indiana Daily Student

‘I wanted to finish the right way’: IU football’s Thomas Allen set to return to the field

<p>Senior linebacker Thomas Allen practices during fall camp Aug. 9, 2021, at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington. Allen said he made a decision to return to the field this offseason in a press conference Thursday.</p>

Senior linebacker Thomas Allen practices during fall camp Aug. 9, 2021, at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington. Allen said he made a decision to return to the field this offseason in a press conference Thursday.

During the first quarter against Michigan State on Nov. 14, 2020, then-junior linebacker Thomas Allen forced a fumble against the Spartan’s then-sophomore running back Anthony Williams Jr. 

The game’s broadcast quickly switched to a visual of IU head coach Tom Allen, Thomas’ father, pumping his fists and yelling in celebration on the sideline. It’s a common sight to see the Allens celebrating on the sideline after a play, be it the interception by Thomas against Iowa in 2018 or the top-ten win against Penn State in 2020.

There was a different story between the two later in the game when Thomas suffered an injury, later diagnosed as a dislocated hip and posterior wall fracture. At that moment, Thomas could only think one thing:

“Did I take my last football snap?”

Linebackers James Miller and Micah McFadden rushed onto the field along with Thomas’ father. Before a cart took Thomas back to the locker room, most of the team came to see him. 

Thomas was on crutches after the game and surrounded by players while embracing his father. Tom Allen held Thomas close, speaking into his son’s ear with tears in his eyes.

"He's a fighter,” Allen said after the game. “He'll find a way to overcome it and play again."

Thomas would stay on crutches for another six to eight weeks during the rehab process, he said in a press conference Thursday. 

After his surgery, he spent most of his time in bed healing. Jacob Laverman, IU’s director of football rehabilitation, worked with Thomas during his rehab. Thomas said Laverman had him perform stretches that would bring tears to his eyes.

“I will never miss that and I love him to death, but I don’t want him to ever touch me again,” Thomas said.

After returning for fall football camp, Thomas still had to deal with the ups and downs in regard to his injury, he said, but added that he feels great overall and is excited for his role with a strong linebackers room.

The offseason was busy for the younger Allen. He was accepted into the MBA program at the Kelley School of Business. He faced the looming decision of whether to return to the field or take up coaching, but he didn’t face the decision alone.

Thomas met IU softball infielder Annika Baez thanks to a mutual friend at IU’s freshman orientation in 2017, and the two began dating four months later. Thomas proposed Aug. 6, 2020, and Annika said yes.

The two were married July 30, and danced  to “Meant to Be” by Bebe Rexha in a party tent after the ceremony. Members of the IU football and softball programs were in attendance.

Baez, now Annika Allen, played a part in Thomas’ decision to return to the field, he said. After speaking with Annika and his family, he ultimately decided to return for one final season.

“When you have the injuries that I’ve had, you kind of have to look at the big picture and be able to say ‘is it worth it?’,” Thomas said. “But at the end of the day, I think I wanted to finish the right way.”

On his father, Thomas said the coolest experience he’ll ever have is making a play on Saturdays and walking off the field to see the elder Allen celebrating.

“This has been the greatest decision I’ve ever made,” Thomas said. “Through the ups and downs of my career, I wouldn’t have switched anything. Being able to play here at Indiana University for him, I’ll never change that.”

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