NFL Prospect Jonathan Allen Is Already Thinking About His Post-NFL Career
The old EA Sports mantra, “It’s in the game,” is a thrill for most incoming NFL rookies. But Alabama standout Jonathan Allen, who’s a projected top 10 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, wants to do more than just be in Madden. The avid gamer wants to develop video games. Of course, he has what NFL teams hope will be a long and prosperous career on the real gridiron first. But he’s already excited about making interactive entertainment — and not just video games, but virtual reality. We caught up with the Alabama 2015 National Champion ahead of the April 27-29 NFL Draft in Philadelphia to discuss his love and dedication to gaming.
What are you playing these days?
Right now, it’s been Battlefield One and For Honor, which is a four-on-four multiplayer fighting game. And Battlefield on the computer were good games, but I’m just now focusing on consoles recently.
Are you looking already looking at a post-NFL career in the game development business?
A hundred percent. I have a financial planning degree, so my heart, if it was in my world, I would get into video game designing. With my passion I’d be anything I can, I just want to be a part of it.
Have you tried using any game technology like Unreal Engine 4 to make a game or even mod an existing game?
I’ve been thinking about it, but I just haven’t had the time to really get into that. That’s definitely something that was gonna be the next thing I pick up and start to get into. ‘Cause I mean, god that sounds great, I just love it. I definitely want to be a part of it.
I understand you’ve already jumped into virtual reality. What’s your home VR set-up like?
I got the HTC Vive from the Windows Store. I had to mount the cameras on the wall and map out the room with the controller for room-scale VR. It’s amazing. It’s pretty tight. If you have any money to spare, it’s definitely worth it.
What games do you like to play in VR?
In VR, a lot of them are just shooter games like Out of Ammo. It’s still relatively new, but there’s not a ton of games out. But all the games I do play are shooting games or sometimes sports games.
What are your thoughts on many high school, college and NFL teams using virtual reality programs like STRIVR as a training tool?
I’ve seen that some schools like Stanford have it and they use it for the quarterbacks. It’s cool. It’s something that can really help quarterbacks. For a lot of positions in the defensive line, or the offensive line, it’s all reaction stuff. There are mental aspects to it, but almost everything they do is physical, and it’s reactionary, so you have to work on your quickness and reaction time. So for someone like a receiver or middle linebacker trying to pick up formations, or pick up blitzes; it would be more effective for the skill position guys.
What are your thoughts on the rise of professional gaming, or eSports, which combines your athletic background with gaming prowess?
I wish there was that when I was growing up. That honestly sounds like the coolest thing ever. That’s honestly a dream, being able to be that.
You already have a Vive. They’re now starting to develop games like Hyper Arena for VR eSports.
Man, sign me up for it. That’s all I know.
Where does being in the new Madden video game fit into this whole process for you when you think of this year and being an NFL rookie?
I don’t even know what to expect. I’m definitely gonna play with whatever team I’m on. That’s just crazy to think about that. I’m gonna be in a video game. That’s amazing.
Is Madden one of the games you like to play?
Well of course, I dominate the competition where I’m from.
EA Sports has a professional Madden video game league, so there are people now playing Madden for a living.
I know, and it’s crazy to think about, but it’s gonna take a lot of practice, I just don’t have the time and dedication to practice as much. But when I’m practicing on the real field, I’m still there practicing on the game, so …
The odds are most of those pro gamers can’t do what you do on the real field, so you have that going for you.
How do you feel Madden incorporating real NFL team playbooks can potentially help prepare a rookie heading into the NFL?
It’s cool that they use the real playbooks. I’m not sure how effective it will be at helping a rookie get ready, I’m not sure if they’re really gonna put the correlation together. When I’m out there I’m not doing the checks that go along with it. I go out there to win. I feel like it could help, but I’m just not sure to what extent.
Do you feel playing Madden from when you were young helped you learn schemes on offense and defense early on before you were physically getting out there on the field?
I definitely think it did. It definitely helped me develop a love for the game. Because that’s where the love starts, it all starts with Madden, NFL Blitz and then from there your love for football just grows and your IQ grows and everything you do grows. That’s how you get the position where I’m at right now.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to make a career in football?
Stay humble. Shut up and just work. That’s what it’s all about. Just getting in that good work.