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Editor's Notebook
August 8, 2020

5/7/2012 1:41:00 PM
Six degrees of separation
Indianapolis Colts draft pick has unique connection to North Vernon
Kyle Chase, left, is greeted by Dwayne Allen at Clemson University’s Memorial Stadium. Chase is the stepson of Debbie Mayer Chase, formerly of North Vernon.—Submitted Photo
Kyle Chase, left, is greeted by Dwayne Allen at Clemson University’s Memorial Stadium. Chase is the stepson of Debbie Mayer Chase, formerly of North Vernon.—Submitted Photo
Call it six degrees of separation, but it's probably a few degrees less than that. Whatever, one of the soon-to-be newest players on the Indianapolis Colts has a North Vernon connection of sorts.

Dwayne Allen was the Colts' first pick in the third round - and 64th overall - of the recent NFL draft. Allen is from Fayetteville, N.C., and was a football star at Clemson Univer­sity.

So what does the 6-foot-4, 255-pound tight end have in common with North Vernon?

My sister, Debbie Mayer Chase, who grew up here, and her husband, Jon Chase, befriended Allen when he was a student at Max Abbott Middle School and Terry Sanford High School in Fayetteville.

Actually, my sister and brother-in-law are much more than mere acquaintances with Allen. They played big roles in nurturing him during his high school years, giving him rides to school and practice, helping him with his homework, feeding him meals and more. He bonded with and became close friends with Kyle Chase, his high school classmate and teammate, who is also the son and stepson of Jon and Debbie Chase.

"For Dwayne to end up with the Colts near my hometown is pretty cool, way cool," Debbie said. "We've gotten word to Dwayne to expect a built-in fan base (when the NFL season starts next fall)."

Allen hasn't signed with the Colts yet, but that is more or less a foregone conclusion.

Allen's journey to pro football was full of formidable obstacles. He grew up in a rough neighborhood in a relatively poor, single-parent household. Yet here he is now on the verge of signing an NFL contract and, just as importantly, only a semester away from a bachelor's degree.

Wayne Inman, the head football coach at Terry Sanford High School, gives at least some of the credit to the Chases.

"The Chases embraced Dwayne and have a lot to do with where he is now," Inman said. "Many people at our school embraced Dwayne and gave him good guidance. He surrounded himself with good, influential people like the Chases, which led him to greater things."

Jon Chase is an assistant football coach at Terry Sandford High School.

"During the summer before his freshman year, Dwayne was walking by the football coaches' offices to get to the gym to play basketball," Jon recalled. "Coach Inman saw this big kid walking by and did what coaches do. Coach stopped Dwayne and asked him, 'Why aren't you playing football?' Dwayne replied, 'I don't have $10 to get a physical.' Coach reached into his pocket, gave Dwayne $10, told him to come back Saturday when physicals were going to be given for our football candidates."

Allen returned, passed the physical and went on to become an all-state football player at the school.

"Basketball was Dwayne's sport until he came to high school," Jon said. "When he was a freshman, that was his first time to play organized football. I coached him that year on the junior varsity team where I was the offensive coach. I didn't know then how good he was, but Coach Inman said right away, 'This kid is going to be something special.'"

Allen had to break out from his comfort zone, Jon noted. Allen played basketball for his high school and was a standout in that sport, too, but football was a new sport for him.

"A lot of high school kids gravitate to the easy things and basketball was very comfortable for Dwayne," Jon said. "He realized, though, that he could be a better football than basketball player.

"It took years of work in the weight room, on the practice field, getting beat up in games and coaches constantly reminding him to do his school and homework. Enough people took an interest in Dwayne and helped him become much better than maybe even he thought he might be. It took a community to raise Dwayne," he added.

Allen nearly signed with the University of Georgia before deciding on Clemson. His first year in college was a red-shirt season, then he started six games the next year and was the regular starter at tight end the next two seasons.

Last fall, Allen was a consensus All-American and was voted the John Mackey Award as the best tight end among NCAA Division I players. That award is named after the late Pro Football Hall of Famer who was with the then-Balitmore Colts from 1963-71. Despite that connection to the Colts, Allen was surprised when the call came from Indianapolis on April 27.

"I haven't talked to the Colts since the NFL combine (two months earlier),' Allen told sportswriter Sammy Batten of the Fayetteville Observer. "But that's the way it is sometimes. It feels great. It's ironic that the John Mackey recipient is going to John Mackey's team. It's a perfect fit and I'm going to do my best to maximize my opportunity.'

When Allen was in high school, the Chases would host Allen and four or five other football players at their home for a weekly meal of lasagna. The student-athletes would talk and typically finish the evening with a study table session.

The Chases learned that Allen was sleeping on a sofa at his home, so they gave him a futon. Allen gave it to his sister.

The high school football team had a ministry in which people donated clothing, some of which Allen received. "He needed that because he didn't have it. He came from almost nothing," Jon said.

Allen and some of the other kids would even bring their laundry to the Chases.

"Dwayne is a pleasant young man and is guarded in a lot of ways because of his background," Jon said. "Colts fans will find out that he is very focused and understands he has a lot of work to do. He doesn't see what he has accomplished as celebrity. I think he will work real hard. He sees Coby Fleener (a tight end from Stanford drafted by the Colts in the second round) being picked ahead of him as great because it will be good competition. Dwayne will be fighting for playing time, and he likes that."

Inman was with Allen to watch the draft.

"Dwayne is a very intelligent young man," Inman said. "He's goal oriented. He worked hard to achieve in college and promised his mom that he would get a degree. He lives up to his promises."

"All the Colts fans in North Vernon are going to love him," Jon predicted.

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