Dear NFL General Managers,
My name is Dakota Allen, and some of you might know me as the first team All-Big 12 linebacker out of Texas Tech. Or maybe you know me as the guy from Last Chance U.
The reason I’m writing this is to talk about where I’ve been, what I’ve learned, and why I know I’m ready to contribute to your team.
I know there might be some red flags around me heading into the draft. There’s a reason why I had to move to Scooba, Mississippi, in order to revive my career — and my life, really. And I think that’s something that I need to address directly.
Around the end of my redshirt freshman season at Texas Tech, I made biggest mistake of my life: I was charged with second degree burglary.I know there might be some red flags around me heading into the draft.
And although the charges were eventually dismissed, I understand that it’s a mark on my record that can’t ever be removed. It’s something that, regardless of every other positive thing I’ve ever done, might be enough for some teams to leave me off their draft boards altogether.
If you don’t know me, I can understand why you might let that one mistake cloud your opinion of me. But I’m writing this to express to you that I’m so much more than that one mistake, and I think anyone you speak to who is involved in my life will say the same thing.
I’ve spent the last three years doing everything in my power to make up for one night when I did a really dumb and destructive thing. It took a long time to get some people in my life to forgive me. And it took even longer for me to forgive myself.
But today, I’m a person who is really excited about what the future holds. I’ve faced challenges that have tested me in ways I couldn’t have imagined, and because of that I’m not the same person I was back then.
I’m so much stronger. I’m so much smarter. I’m so much better.
And I want to tell you why.
Courtesy of Dakota Allen
My older brother, Anthony, was always more of a troublemaker than I was. I love him and I looked up to him, but even he would admit he could have done things better. And it was because of his decisions that my parents were pretty strict with me while I was growing up.
And because of that, for most of my life, I did just about everything the right way. I stayed out of trouble, I had good grades, and I was involved with all sorts of extracurriculars at school. Both of my parents instilled in me a very keen sense of what was right and what was wrong — and that’s a true credit to them. I didn’t come from the best neighborhood, but I worked hard to make sure I stayed on the right path.
I excelled in high school, and was eventually offered a full scholarship at Texas Tech. It was an opportunity that meant so much to me, and I know it meant the world to my family. We had been working toward it my entire life.
When I got to Tech, I suddenly went from being under tight supervision to being free to do whatever I wanted. I was immature and just didn’t handle that the right way. Still, I kept my grades up and in 2015, after sitting out a season as a redshirt I began getting a lot of playing time. Things were looking good. But near the end of that season, I suffered an ankle injury and my attitude flipped entirely. I was sad, and that sadness turned into frustration and anger. And as a result my decision-making — something that had always been a strength of mine — took a bad turn.
After I was arrested, I lost everything I’d worked so hard to get. I lost my scholarship and I was dismissed from Texas Tech. And as bad as that hurt, what was even worse was what it did to my family. The way I hurt them truly crushed me. My parents had been so good to me. My dad is my hero, and he could barely look at me. My mom is my rock, and she began crying herself to sleep every night.
I was facing serious time for what I had done, and despite their disappointment, my parents did everything they could to get me the representation I needed to stay out of prison. Through the grace of God, my charges were dismissed.
From the moment I heard the news, I knew that what I had been given was something so incredibly rare that I couldn’t waste: a second chance. I play a sport where there aren’t a whole lot of second chances. I don’t come from a place where people usually get them. So I knew the only way back was for me to change everything.
When I was at my lowest, the person I sought out for guidance was Anthony. He didn’t look down on me for what I had done. He’d made mistakes in the past, but he turned his life around. He had put his past behind him and had started a business and a family.
And when I needed him most, he was my guardian angel.
I’ll never forget when I was having a conversation with him and I just broke down over the fact that football — the thing that made me happiest in this world — seemed to be over for me. As I went on feeling sorry for myself he stopped me.Football — the thing that made me happiest in this world — seemed to be over for me.
”Come on, brother,” he said. “That’s just not true.”
And then he looked at me and said, “You were meant to play football.”
He was right.
Getting back to where I had been wasn’t going to be easy — honestly, it seemed impossible — but I needed to at least give it a shot.
So not long after that, I packed up all of my things and moved to a small town in Mississippi called Scooba.
And, even though I didn’t realize it at the time, my life was about to change forever.
Courtesy of East Mississippi CC Athletics
I get asked quite a bit what it was like to have watched a portion of my life unfold on TV. Honestly, it was a trip.
On one hand, I think the show did a pretty good job portraying the type of person I am. It captured some very real moments. But on the other hand, it was difficult to watch everything knowing the state I was in while I was there.
One of my most vivid memories from that season at East Mississippi Community College wasn’t even on the show. I was sitting with Miss Brittany, our academic adviser — who is an amazing woman — in her office and we were talking about my situation. I’m generally a reserved person, but during the course of our conversation I began to break down. I was hundreds of miles away from anybody I knew, in this place that everyone was trying to get out of, and I knew there was a chance that, no matter what I did, I might never get back what I had lost.
There’s not much to do in Scooba except get better at football and pray. I spent a lot of my time there doing both. In fact, I think it was finding my faith while I was there that truly helped me turn things around and start the process of forgiving myself.
And when that happened, things started things started to change — for the better.
I’ll never forget the day I checked my phone and saw that there was a text from David Gibbs, my defensive coordinator at Texas Tech. He was asking if I might be interested in returning to Lubbock. For me, that was the kind of opportunity that almost seemed too good to be true. It almost felt like destiny.
Getting readmitted wasn’t an easy process by any means. I needed a lot of people, including Coach Kingsbury, to really go out and vouch for my character. And the fact that those people did that for me is something I’ll never forget. Their trust and faith in me as a person is something that I will forever be touched by.
In the fall of 2017, I reenrolled at Texas Tech to finish what I had started. And for the past two seasons, I’ve done absolutely everything in my power to make the most of my last chance.
John Weast/Getty Images
When I think about these past few years, and all the experiences I’ve had, the one word that comes to mind is redemption.
I’m not scared to discuss my past mistakes because I know they’re part of who I am. I can’t ignore them and pretend everyone else will, as well. But beyond that, I’ve put in the work to make sure that they will not define my future.
There were so many reasons I was happy to return to Lubbock. I got to return to a bunch of friends and a campus that welcomed me. And as a player, I got to rejoin a program that has molded me into a linebacker who will be ready to contribute to an NFL team on Day One.
Purely from a football perspective, I think I have a skillset that’s right in line with what teams need.
Air Raid–style offenses are becoming the norm, and I’ve spent the past few years practicing against this exact type of system — and excelling. That’s something I take a lot of pride in because all of my success has been the result of great coaching and a lot of preparation. I truly believe my football IQ is as high as any other prospect in this draft, and I’m still grinding every single day to get better.
To me, none of it has ever felt like work. These past two years have honestly felt like more of a dream. Almost losing football made me appreciate it in a way I never had before. It motivated me to take it as far as I possibly can — for my family and for myself.
After I returned to Tech in 2017, before I even took the field, I was voted a team captain. Given what had happened, where I had been and how many of my teammates I felt I’d let down, it was something that really helped me heal. To have their confidence in me meant everything.I truly believe my football IQ is as high as any other prospect in this draft.
To me that’s redemption.
It reminded me that I’m destined to be remembered as more than just a player who was kicked out of Texas Tech, or some kid who appeared on a Netflix show.
I know that the best chapter of my story is still waiting to be written.
And I hope it’s with your organization.