UNBREAKABLE SINCE DAY ONE
By Rand Champion | SFA Athletic Media Relations
Its a question they've been asked probably hundreds of times, and probably one they are tired of answering. But for Jamal and Jabralon Allen, being asked who is who is just part of their daily experience.
"You can tell those who don't know us very well, because those are the ones that can't tell us apart," Jabralon said. "It's nothing to be on campus and have people think I'm Jamal and ask about assignments that are due. I'm like, `you're talking to the wrong dude.'"
But the duo has learned to have some fun with it, even once deciding to switch classes in high school just to see if they could pull it off. But it didn't last long.
"We thought we would give it a shot, but I got scared and chickened out," Jamal admitted.
It may have been the only time the twins from Frankston have stepped down from a challenge, however. They have been nearly inseparable since birth (Jamal is 15 minutes older than Jabralon), and that bond has continued to grow stronger through the years.
The two got involved early in football, beginning organized play in the fifth grade in Tyler, playing on the same sideline all through middle school and high school. But the love of the game started much earlier than that.
"Growing up, that's all we did - playing outside, throwing the football around and tackling each other," said Jabralon.
Along with that closeness also came a fierce level of competitiveness that most brothers experience, but perhaps not to the level of when you are separated by just 15 minutes.
"Very, very competitive," Jamal said. "Everything we did was a competition."
"We have other brothers and sisters too, so they added to that as well," Jabralon added." It worked out for us and its something we've benefitted from."
As high school began, the Allen twins were once again side by side on the Frankston sidelines, becoming the defining faces of the Indian program. Albeit, in slightly different roles than they fill now.
Jamal was on the offensive side of the ball, serving as the Frankston quarterback and, in true fashion, was quite modest when describing his high school accomplishments.
"I was alright, I think," Jamal said with a grin. "I passed for some yards and ran for a few as well."
Those "few" yards totaled 1,057 passing yards and 1,369 rushing yards with 18 total touchdowns, leading the Indians to an 8-4 record and advancing to the second round of the playoffs.
On the opposite side of the ball, Jabralon thrived as well, finishing with 193 tackles with 23 tackles for loss at the linebacker position. For their efforts, the Allen twins were named the District 9-2A Offensive and Defensive MVPs, respectively, as the duo both garnered All-East Texas accolades.
Following the conclusion of their prep careers, the twins for the first time faced a challenging question - with college looming on the horizon, would they go their separate ways? But when you ask the two of them, it was a question they didn't ponder for long.
"We knew we were going to play together," Jamal said. "We've been together our whole lives, so I don't think we even thought about splitting up."
"It was never in my mind to be apart," added Jabralon. "We came into it football together and we were going to leave football together."
When it was time to choose a place to continue their football career, it almost seemed like
a no-brainer for the duo as famly once again played a key role.
"We wanted to be somewhere where we could be close to home," said Jamal. "SFA is an hour from Frankston and has been the perfect situation for us."
"A lot of our friends and family come visit," added Jabralon. "Every game we have, I feel we have the most people in the stands. It is nice to be so close to home."
The proximity to home also provides another benefit to the brothers. The two are avid outdoorsmen, using their time away from the classroom and football field to hunt, fish or do anything outdoors.
"Every time we go home, we're either working, helping our grandpa or we're outdoors doing something," said Jabralon. "Whether it's hunting or fishing or just hanging out, we try to be outside doing something adventurous."
When asked where their favorite spot to go fishing is?
"There's a couple of ranches back home that I really enjoy," Jamal said. "But they are our secret spot, so I'm not saying where."
Since arriving at SFA, a lot has changed for the brothers, including where it is they play on the field. The duo has swapped sides of the ball with Jamal now helping anchor the defensive end position and Jabralon filling the role of starting fullback. While it was quite a change from what they were use to previously, it was another challenge both have met head-on.
"I played running back a little bit in high school, which was completely different than what I'm doing now, which is mostly just blocking," Jabralon said. "The transition hasn't necessarily been easy, but coach Hammock has helped me focus on the little things and has really helped me settle in."
"I was too big and slow to play quarterback at the collegiate level, so (the coaches) switched me over to defensive end," Jamal said. "I kind of liked being able to be more physical, to be honest. Going from getting hit as the quarterback to delivering hits on the quarterback is pretty fun."
That hard work and positive attitude has earned Jamal a special distinction for this game, being chosen as the Cally Belcher award winner and having the opportunity to wear the number 16 jersey - an honor Jamal is extremely humbled at receiving.
"I really didn't know what to say when coach Conque told me," Jamal said. "I was honored to be picked for this award and really didn't think I deserved it. But to be selected by the coaches, I really appreciate it. We are familiar with Cally's story and what he means to the program. He was a stand-up guy, and that's how I try to be. Plus it's nice to be the first defensive player to get to wear his number 16."
With their final season of football upon them, the duo know that life will start to change in the not-too-distant future. In fact, the changes have already started.
The duo both earned their degrees this past May - Jamal in criminal justice with a minor in forestry (his career goal is to become a game warden) and Jabralon in accounting. Jabralon also got married this past July, beginning a new chapter where for the first time, the twins are starting to head down different paths.
"It's crossed my mind, but I try not to think about it," said Jabralon about the changes on the horizon. "We've been together our whole lives. We knew this day would come, but for now, we're just trying to enjoy this last season of playing football together."
"It's a part of life," added Jamal. "We knew it was coming. But no matter where life takes us, we'll always be close."