Oct. 21, 2002
Not everyone appreciates freedom. It's often taken for granted these days.
USC's Marcell Allmond is a person who embraces freedom. He's a freewheeling, multi-talented athlete who likes nothing more than to be his own man, whether he's stuck out on an island covering a receiver, grabbing center stage at a track meet, or slicing through traffic on his motorcyle.
'I've always been the kind of guy who wanted to be on my own, to take care of myself,' said Allmond, a junior who started for the first time at cornerback last Saturday against Washington. 'I'm my mother's only child, and the oldest of my father's five children. So I know what it's like to be independent or to be just part of the group. I prefer being independent.'
That's a good trait for a cornerback to have. How else can you handle running stride for stride all alone with a receiver 50 yards down the field with no one to help you?
'I have a lot of freedom at cornerback, more so than I would have on offense,' said Allmond, who was switched from wide receiver last spring. 'Coach Carroll lets us be ourselves while also following his techniques and assignments. But I can be myself on defense and let my personality out and show my aggressive side.'
Marcell Allmond wasn't always so free. At least not while at USC. When he first became a Trojan in 1999, he was a highly-regarded wide receiver from St. Paul High in Santa Fe Springs, Calif. In his first two years, he made a nice name for himself, too, catching 30 passes and scoring two touchdowns while starting seven games. But those numbers would have been better if not for breaking his leg five games into his sophomore season. And when he came back, he compounded things by getting himself suspended for the 2001 season for fighting. By the time he returned to the team, he was moved over to cornerback. Things were certainly looking up again.
Except they didn't.
As the 2002 season started, Allmond was slowed first by an infected leg as a result of a minor car accident and then by a broken wrist. It wasn't until his leg healed and the cast came off that he finally got his chance to show what he could do as a defender. No longer a caged bird, he was let loose to wreak havoc once again.
'Things happen for a reason,' said Allmond, who has 11 tackles and two pass deflections so far this season. 'I'm a firm believer in that. Maybe I wasn't meant to start at the beginning of the season. Maybe I was meant to play along and get the position down before I got out there.
'It's coming along. I've come a long way and I'm starting to get it down.'
He's getting it down while being given the task of covering some of the bigger recievers in the Pac-10. But he can be forgiven if occasionally he casts a wistful sideways glance at the other side of the ball.
'I miss it sometimes,' admitted Allmond. 'When the offense is out there, I sometimes think about it. But other times I think about how much I like playing defense, too. I'm happy on defense.'
One of the things that makes him happy on defense is the chance to cover his old running mate on offense, Kareem Kelly. The two of them both came to USC in 1999 as football/track double threats.
'It's fun in practice,' said Allmond. 'There's a lot of trash talking that goes on between us, but it's all fun and games. I like going against Kareem. He makes me better and I try to make him better.'
One sport where Allmond would like to continue to get better in is track and field. He was a high school All-American in the decathlon and a two-time California state champ in the 110-meter hurdles. In 2000, he was the Pac-10 runner up in the 110-meter hurdles and was also seventh in the decathlon. If he chose the path of track and field, there is no doubt that he would be an impact performer. After all, it's been one of his loves since before he was a teenager.
'I got involved with track when I was 11,' said Allmond. 'Back then, I ran the 100 and 200 meters, like everyone does at that age. I got involved in the hurdles when I was 12 and in the pentathlon when I was 14. Between football and track, I still can't say which one is my first love. I give my heart out in both of them.'
If any event encompasses Allmond's personality, it is the decathlon. It's a grueling, two-day affair that challenges an athlete both mentally and physically.
'The decathlon is about freedom for me,' said Allmond, who one day wants to have a career in computer animation. 'You have a lot of events to focus on. It's not just one set event. If you mess up in one event, you can make it up in another. '
For a guy who has been through so much injury and misfortune, you would think that Allmond would be playing it cautious. But he's not. That would not be in his nature. That's why he wears another helmet besides the Trojan football helmet--the one he wears when he's riding his motorcycle.
'My dad always rode motorcycles,' said Allmond. 'He always had me and my brothers and sisters up there with him. I always wanted one, but I never had the guts. I finally bought one, though.
'I don't do wheelies or anything like that. I don't ride far. I ride from USC to home. About half a mile. That's it.'
Okay, fine, he's not much of an 'Easy Rider' type. To his credit, Allmond has finally learned to rein in his wild nature a bit.
But not too much.
'I don't take my motorcycle riding to the max,' said Allmond. 'It's more of a freedom thing.
'I just like being out in space and feeling the air blow by.'
by Chris Huston, Assistant Sports Information Director