"I wanted to be."
How do you do it?
"Everything is instinct. I'm just gone."
Robinson, clicking films back and forth of Allen getting gone, says that the tailback at USC must think "I'm going to carry 40 times and I'm going to getcha. Maybe not until my 38th carry, but I'll getcha. There's an ethic to it. The most important thing is: We've never had a jerk play the position."
And the incumbent certainly is no jerk. Indeed, he has a personality that lights up the sky. Draw a picture of the perfect guy to be USC tailback and you draw Marcus. You want a son just like him. One of his best friends, Chip McAllister, 24, an actor, says of Allen, "He'd rather die than lie." The first time Allen met O.J., he said to Simpson, "Do me a favor. Call my mom." O.J. did.
Realizing that he needed to improve his speaking abilities—quite candidly, to learn how to speak to white corporate America in something other than black street dialect—Allen went to USC speech professor Ed Bodaken. They now meet once a week to review Allen's interviews, and Bodaken says, "Marcus moves to substance. He's really trying to move up. He knows he is in the fast lane; he wants to express himself well. But understand, we were never talking about a grunt-and-moaner."
Asked why he is concerned about speaking when his football ability can always talk for him, Allen says, "I want to improve every aspect of my life, and football is just one aspect."
Allen is interested not only in how he says things but in what he says. That's a lesson he learned from a wall plaque in the den back home in San Diego:
Be careful of the words you say
So keep them soft and sweet
You never know from day to day
Which ones you'll have to eat.
Allen has never had a serious moment of trouble, even if you count the time the neighbor lady called the police because she said he was standing on her property; it turned out he was standing on city property. When something would go wrong involving Marcus and his older brother, Harold, "my father would just beat the hell out of both of us," says Allen. "He didn't bother to try to find out which one did it. And I appreciate it. See, so many parents don't care."