Josh Allen

For high school, Josh Allen had the option of staying in his hometown of Firebaugh, California, or attending in Fresno, about 45 miles to the east. A bigger school in Fresno could offer the exposure for more scholarship offers, but Allen chose to stay in Firebaugh, population circa 7,500.

"My dad always told me you bloom where you're planted," Allen says. "So that's what we did."

Allen's roots are planted deep. His paternal grandfather, Buzz, donated the land and helped create Firebaugh High School, and the gym is named in his honor.

"It made me play harder, and I wrote his initials on my cleats and I had them every game," Allen says. "After every national anthem, I made sure to touch my cleats. Before every game, I'd make sure I tapped the little memorial thing that they had for him on the wall, in A.E. 'Buzz' Allen Gym, so just a sense of remembrance and knowing why I'm here. He was kind of the main reason I was at the school of Firebaugh because he was the one that allowed it to happen, so it made me respect the game. It made me respect the school even that much more."

Firebaugh, California

Buzz died during Josh's senior year at Firebaugh, so he didn't get a chance to see his grandson blossom into the Wyoming quarterback who is projected to be one of the top picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. Even as Allen is on the verge of making it to the big time, he savors the special connections he made growing up in a small farm town. 
"You stayed with the same group throughout all your years in school, which is really cool because you played Little League with them, Pop Warner, and then ultimately, when you got into high school athletics," Allen says. "It was a sense of familiarity, a sense of comfortableness, so, when you got on the field and all the sports stuff -- because my life is based around sports growing up -- you really knew the guys you were playing with."

Allen's high school coach, Bill Magnusson, says the community takes pride in representing a part of California that isn't depicted in the movies or TV shows.

Allen Gym, Firebaugh High School

"We go to national tournaments for wrestling, and everyone asks us, 'Do you surf?'"  Magnusson says. "No, we don't surf. We're in the middle of the most productive farmland on Planet Earth. If we got the water, we'd probably be the No. 1. But this is where we're proud of what we do here, and we grow the food that you eat. If you're having ketchup, it's from here. If you eat a cantaloupe, it's from here. If you have almonds, almond milk, you got it here. The people here are proud of that. Lot of grapes, lot of tomatoes, lot of crops here that we grow."

Jordan Martinez, one of Allen's friends since childhood, says Firebaugh is too small for anyone to have a secret.

"When you're driving downtown and you see a person, you know their grandma, you know their aunt, you know their backstory," Martinez says. "In a small town, there's really nothing much to do. We only have two stop lights, no Walmart. There are supermarkets … a bunch of little Mexican liquor stores, stuff like that. No Taco Bell, no McDonald's, none of that stuff. All we had to do was just hang out with each other. We grew that bond that no one can break at a young age. We grew up together. We did everything together."

As Allen heads to the NFL, he understands that his upbringing in Firebaugh will always be a part of his narrative, particularly when it is framed in a motivational context.   
"Anybody who plays the game of football can be a role model in their perspective position or within their community," he says. "With my story, it associates me being with a small town, small community, still making it out. And if there's anybody, any kid out there that is from a small community that anybody's telling them not ... anybody's telling them that they can't do it, I hope that they can look at my story and find a source of inspiration and just know that it is possible. And there's nobody in this world that can tell you not to do something and if you have the desire to work for it ... if you have enough desire to work for what you want to accomplish, things can get done."

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