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Hinsdale Central grad, family turn Rose Bowl trip into vacation

<p>Michigan State center and Hinsdale Central alum Jack Allen &nbsp;&mdash; Sun-Times Media file photo</p>

Michigan State center and Hinsdale Central alum Jack Allen  — Sun-Times Media file photo

Jack Allen’s first trip to California is guaranteed to be a memorable one. 

The 2011 Hinsdale Central graduate will play in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.

John and Leslie Allen have taken their three boys on several warm-weather family vacations to Florida, but the Golden State has never been on the itinerary. But next week nearly a dozen Allen family members will watch Jack compete in the 100th Rose Bowl when Michigan State meets Stanford in “The Granddaddy of Them All.”

Allen, a 6-foot-1, 297-pound sophomore, is the starting center for the Spartans, who upset Ohio State 34-24 Dec. 7 for the right to play in Pasadena, Calif. That was Allen jumping up and down in the middle of the field when Michigan State running back Jeremy Langford broke free for the game-clinching touchdown on a 26-yard carry with 2 minutes, 16 seconds remaining.

“That was the final nail in the coffin,” said Jack Allen. “I loved it. People are still sending me pictures [of the TD].”

Allen was scheduled to return home for a holiday break Saturday and then fly out to California with the team on Christmas Day. 

The last former Hinsdale Central football player to appear in the Rose Bowl was Brian Musso, a wide receiver for Northwestern’s Big Ten champs in 1996. 

Allen’s immediate family and extended family, including aunts, uncles and two sets of grandparents, will fly to California later in the week for the game. Allen will have more supporters than just family; eight-to-10 neighbors and family friends who graduated from Michigan State will make the trip as well.

“I think it’s kind of neat. I can’t lie,” said John Allen who attended the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis. “It kind of gives me the chills.”

Players from both teams will participate in a welcoming ceremony at Disneyland on Dec. 26 and the Lawry’s Beef Bowl prime rib dinner Dec. 27 in Beverly Hills.

“It will be my first trip to California, so I’m definitely excited. My roommate [Fou Fonoti] is from [Lakewood] California. He tells me there will be nice weather. He never saw snow until he got here [MSU].”

One interested viewer of the Rose Bowl telecast will be Mike DiMatteo, Jack’s football coach at Hinsdale Central. 

“Jack and I still keep in touch quite regularly,” said DiMatteo, who currently coaches at Buffalo Grove. “He has developed into a great player, but even better than that, a great person. It’s always gratifying when one of your guys does as well as Jack.”

When Jack Allen made his first college bowl appearance last season in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, where Michigan State defeated TCU 17-16, he was primarily a left guard. This season he’s the starting center. 

“I love it [playing center]. That’s where I want to stay,” Jack said.

Jack Allen will become the second member of his family to play in a Rose Bowl. His grandfather, John Allen Sr., was an offensive lineman for Wisconsin in a 44-8 loss to Washington in 1960. Jack Allen’s father, John Jr., was 2 years old when his father died in an auto accident in 1963 and still has a ticket stub from the 1960 Rose Bowl when tickets cost $6. 

John Jr., who graduated from Purdue in 1984, will head back to the Rose Bowl, where his first visit in 2001 ended with Washington beating the Boilermakers 34-24.

Hinsdale Central senior Brian will be the only Allen family member unable to make the trip to California. Verbally committed to join Jack at Michigan State next season, he will play in the All-American Bowl for standout high school football players on Jan. 4 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Brian leaves for San Antonio on Dec. 29 and his parents will join him  after the Rose Bowl. 

John and Leslie Allen know they’re lucky to have sons play in the Rose Bowl and All-American Bowl just days apart.

“It’s a blessing, but it has nothing to do with us [parents],” John Allen said.

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