Donald Allender has the look of a quarterback.
The Lewiston-Porter High School senior stands at about 6 feet 4 inches tall and possesses considerable arm strength. He impresses his coaches and supplemental instructors with his poise and maturity. Plus, he has a pedigree.
Allender is the nephew of former Lew-Port standout Daryl Johnston. The 1984 graduate went on to play at Syracuse University, was named an All-American and eventually became the first fullback ever selected to the NFL Pro Bowl as a member of the Dallas Cowboys. Johnston spent much of his career blocking for the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith, and retired in 1999.
The three-time Super Bowl champion was a major factor in Allender deciding to play football as a child, and while he wasn’t always physically present, he was there if Allender ever needed advice.
“He’s a real good role model,” Allender said of his uncle. “He’s a good, smart guy; a genuine guy. He was a great football player. He was always there for me and he always supported me.”
During the 2014 season, Johnston attended Lew-Port’s game against Medina. The score was tied at halftime, but Medina put up 36 points in the second half to earn a blowout victory. Johnston comforted Allender after the game.
“After the game, he texted me ‘keep your head up. You left it all on the field. I know it’s tough but sometimes you just have to push through,’ ” Allender said.
Allender is muscularly defined, but slender. He doesn’t have the build of Johnston, who earned the nickname “Moose” as an NFL rookie because of his imposing stature. His dark brown hair flows down to his shoulder pads. He speaks directly, in a confident manner.
While Allender doesn’t resemble his uncle, he shares an interest in playing football beyond high school. It’s not lost on Allender that Johnston launched his impressive career right at Lew-Port.
“He showed me that you can start off playing at a small school and if you’re good enough, someone will find you,” he said.
Allender has attended a few offseason camps in an effort to improve his odds of someone coming to find him, someone like a college scout. He’s twice attended the Manning Passing Academy, but he credits his improvements to Jim Kubiak’s Western New York Passing Academy.
“I learned everything from Jim Kubiak,” Allender said. “That’s the number one camp. I’ve gone there three years in a row and I learned all my mechanics, footwork and technique there.”
Kubiak is similarly complimentary of Allender. While generally 30 to 40 local quarterbacks attend his camp every year, Allender’s work ethic stands out. Kubiak wasn’t at all shocked to learn Allender had a relative who played professionally.
“There was an understanding, a craving to improve that you don’t normally see from students who don’t have a background like that,” Kubiak said. “When I learned that, I wasn’t surprised. There’s an understanding that players at that level have, especially someone like Daryl Johnston who’s been so successful. What a great mentor.”
Kubiak strongly believes Allender will play at the collegiate level, citing his dedication and impressive footwork.
“He’s really dedicated himself to the mental aspect of the game,” Kubiak said. “That’s really been the biggest difference that I’ve seen. In your senior year, things really do come together physically. He’s a big, strong guy who’s going to be an incredible find for someone at the next level.”
Like Kubiak, Lew-Port Coach John Hoover believes his quarterback is capable of playing at the next level.
“His arm strength is there. He can hit the deep out, he can throw the deep ball. But he still has enough touch to throw things short,” Hoover said. “He’s worked very hard for the past three years, going to different camps … He’s really built himself into a college-ready quarterback.”
While Allender has spoken to the coaches at Hobart and William Smith and a few other colleges, he hasn’t yet received an offer. He knows the best way to earn one is to have a strong senior season. While individual numbers may get him noticed, Allender’s goal is to win a sectional championship, something Lew-Port hasn’t done since Johnston was lining up at fullback in 1982.
“It would mean everything to me,” Allender said. “I’ve been working for a division title or a section title since I was little. I’ve been here for four years, working my butt off in the offseason, trying to get a section title. To go out my senior year winning one would be the greatest thing in the world.”
The Lancers have won just six games in the past two seasons, including a 2-7 finish in 2014. While Hoover would like to have a balanced team, he knows Allender will have to play a major role if any improvement is to take place.
“When we need him, I’d like to be able to lean on him to get us that key first down or key touchdown,” Hoover said. “Now that he’s a senior, I think he’s ready to step up and do that.”
Wherever he ends up in college, Allender plans to major in coaching. He would like to coach at the high school or college level after graduation.
While he’s years away from realizing this goal, Kubiak believes he can achieve it.
“He definitely has a passion. In this business, there’s a lot of hours and a lot of preparation that people don’t necessarily want to do,” Kubiak said. “If he doesn’t play beyond college football, I could see him bringing it back and providing an opportunity for young people who are hungry like he is.”