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Archive for Thursday, September 28, 1995

ALLISON COPING WITHOUT FOOTBALL

September 28, 1995

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Mark Allison used to live for the games. Now he can hardly bring himself to attend them.

This was supposed to be the season for Allison, one of the most decorated high school football players ever to come out of Kansas.

Instead, after a college career interrupted and finally ended by injury, Allison is spending his season trying to divorce himself from the game.

"One of the hardest things for me," said Allison, a Kansas University senior, "is that I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed. As a kid, you dream about doing certain things, about going certain places."

As a kid growing up in Minneapolis, Kan., Allison dreamed of using college as a springboard to the NFL.

An All-America lineman by all the major recruiting services and one of the top 25 players in the country according to USA Today, Allison had plenty of schools to chose from. He chose Kansas and spent his freshman year as a red-shirt on the defensive line.

Little did he know his rash of injuries was about to begin.

During his shortened college career, Allison suffered: a partial tear of the medical collateral ligament in his left leg, a complete tear of his left MCL, a torn ligament in his thumb, a damaged lateral meniscus in his right knee and, finally, torn ligaments in his left ankle.

The ankle injury -- suffered in last year's Iowa State game -- was the final straw.

"It was a chronic injury that I had before that never really healed," Allison said. "I could have played this year, but the doctors said I had a good chance to get hurt again. Basically it was up to me."

Allison agonized over the decision. After making the transition from defensive to offensive line in the 1992 Aloha Bowl, Allison, a 6-foot-3, 295-pounder, never had time to feel comfortable in his new position.

"It was definitely a tough decision to make," Allison said. "Up to then, football had been my life. I had aspirations to try at the next level. But after every injury, it was harder and harder to come back. I only missed two games in my high school career, but I probably only played 10 of my 22 games in college.

"I didn't see my career going on any farther because of my injuries. I knew they'd be hesitant at the pro level to take somebody with my history of injuries. I made the decision when I was still on crutches. I just decided I would have to live with these legs."

And now, in what would have been his senior season, Allison has to live with his decision to walk away. The Jayhawks are 4-0, their best start in 14 seasons.

Allison has watched just one game.

"I really miss playing," he said. "I still support them. At first, I had to get away from it completely. It's a completely different lifestyle. I'm happy for them. I hope they go to the Orange Bowl. But it's hard to go back to the games."

Allison worked in the KU ticket office for a while. He now works in student support services, where he helps tutor football players and other athletes.

And he's about a year and a half away from his degree in physical education. His new goal is to become a football coach.

"That definitely takes some of the sting out of not playing," Allison said. "I've interacted with different coaches. Back home I helped run the weight room. Becoming a coach would be living my dream through someone else. I love the game of football. I think a good coach portrays that love of the game to somebody else."

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