Football players know the left tackle’s job is to protect the vulnerable side of the quarterback, to protect him from what he can’t see coming – to defend his blind side. Ian Allen (LA’00, MBA’12) did this for former Purdue All-American quarterback Drew Brees.
After graduating from Purdue, Allen went on to the NFL for six years, playing for the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and ending his career with the Arizona Cardinals. During that time, he protected football greats like Kurt Warner, Kerry Collins and Donovan McNabb. Although no longer on the football field, Allen is still on the offensive line, this time working to clear the path of educational opportunities for students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend college.
In 2011, Allen and his wife, Joelle, drew on life experiences as inspiration to fund a scholarship for students participating in the Business Opportunity Program (BOP), the oldest student success program on campus which targets underrepresented students within the Krannert School of Management.
Although Allen came to Purdue on a football scholarship, football wasn’t always the direction he was headed. “I was part of the marching band in high school and I was on the honor roll all four years,” says Allen. “I knew the only way for me to attend college was going to be with a scholarship so it was my plan to go on a band or an academic scholarship.”
His high school football coach had different plans for Allen though. “Coach Allen poked fun at me, saying I was too big to be in marching band,” recalls Allen. “So I tried out for the football team and played defense, and I just really enjoyed football from that point on.”
Allen had multiple football scholarship offers from schools like Georgia Tech, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Purdue. “When I made the visit to Purdue, it just felt like I thought a college campus should feel, and I could see myself spending four or five years of my life there,” he says. “I knew Purdue was known for academics, and once I made the visit, I was sold.”
Even though Allen was academically driven, the transition from high school to college academics proved more difficult than he anticipated. “What was challenging was maintaining the grades,” he says. “I changed majors more than once, finally ending up with a degree in general communication.”
Following his pro career, he put his undergraduate communication degree to work as an analyst for the Big Ten Network and Sky Sports in the United Kingdom. Additionally, he owned his own recording label, Nova 53 Records, which featured easy listening music.
“My career plans shifted after I attended an entrepreneurship program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management,” says Allen. “I’d been running my own business, but after sitting in on these classes and hearing terms like internal rate of return and return on investment, I knew if I wanted to be successful, I was going to need more formal education.”
Allen knew his educational opportunities had been afforded to him through scholarships. “My undergraduate degree opened opportunities and doors for me, and I knew going into the MBA program in Purdue’s Krannert School of Management would allow me to grow across industries.” His internship at General Motors finance turned into a job offer. “What this MBA program did was give me the tools to do whatever I wanted to do whenever – and wherever – I wanted to do it.”
Before graduating with his MBA, Allen felt the need to do something to provide those same opportunities to others. “I wanted to start giving back before leaving school so that it was already part of my budget,” he says. “It is important for me to give back so that someone else has the same opportunities that were given to me.”
Michael Oher – the football player whose story was portrayed in the movie “The Blind Side” – said, “If you give somebody a chance, there is hope for that person.” Through their gift to Purdue, Ian and Joelle Allen are doing just that.