Jeremiah Allison was escorted onto the field on senior night by Carmento Floyd, the widow of Elson Floyd, the Washington State president who died of complications from colon cancer. Allison’s relationship with the Floyds deepened after his mother died in 2012.
EL PASO, Texas — She’s never far from his mind. Over the last three years, and with the support of his Washington State family, senior linebacker Jeremiah Allison has learned to cope with the loss of his mother, Lucille Allison, who died in August 2012, just months into Jeremiah’s first year at WSU.
“It’s something you can’t get over, you just get through it,” Allison says.
Still, some days are harder than others. There are milestones Allison has hit over the last few years, and many more dreams he’s about to fulfill, that he often wishes he could have shared with his mother.
Sun Bowl, WSU vs. Miami at El Paso, 11 a.m., Ch. 7
“Graduation is around the corner, and there are a lot of my press conferences I wish she could see, just to see the growth I’ve made,” Allison said.
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Saturday’s game will mark yet another milestone: Allison will make his final appearance in a Cougars uniform when WSU plays Miami in the Sun Bowl.
One of the toughest days he had this year was Senior Night on Nov. 21, when each of the Cougars’ graduating seniors got to walk out onto the field with their parents.
Lucille Allison wasn’t around to escort her son out onto the field, but she would have been happy to know that Jeremiah was well taken care of. In his time at WSU, Allison has become one of the team’s most inspirational leaders, and he’s taken some of those leadership tips from a man whom many considered to be one of the most inspiring leaders the university has had.
WSU’s late president, Elson Floyd, and his wife Carmento were mentors to Allison. They were there for him after his mother died, and they introduced him to one of his best friends — their nephew, Darren Mitchell, who’s also a student at WSU.
On Senior Night, when Allison’s name boomed over the loudspeaker at Martin Stadium, the linebacker marched out of the locker room proudly flanked by his position coach, Ken Wilson, and Carmento Floyd.
Having Wilson and Carmento Floyd by his side was special, Allison said. His only regret was that Elson Floyd and his mother couldn’t be there with him. Elson Floyd died in June this year, of complications from colon cancer.
“It just so happens that (Carmento Floyd and I) both lost someone close to us, and we were able to have our farewell in the stadium,” Allison said.
Allison first connected with Carmento Floyd by chance, when she stopped in at a restaurant in Los Angeles owned by the parents of one of his high-school football teammates.
The restaurant owners mentioned that one of their kids’ teammates was about to start school at WSU, and they put Jeremiah in touch with Carmento Floyd.
“I got a chance to talk to Mrs. Floyd and get to know who she was, and she said: ‘When you get here, the president’s door is always open. Don’t be shy,’ ” Allison said.
With other university presidents, that might have been lip service, but throughout his time at WSU, Elson Floyd earned a reputation for being an accessible, down-to-earth administrator who was very supportive of the Cougars’ athletic programs.
“He was a special guy who was kinda hands-on,” WSU football coach Mike Leach said. “It was a team effort with Dr. Floyd, Bill Moos, me and the coaches. And he would talk to our recruits when they came on campus. He definitely got to know some individuals.”
So when he started school at WSU, Allison would stop by the president’s office on occasion, just to say hello.
After his mother died, the Floyds “drew near me even more,” Allison said. “They did everything they could for me that wouldn’t violate NCAA rules. They made me feel comfortable here. It’s far away from home, and coming here there were not a lot of familiar faces. They put me around the right people.”
One of those people was Mitchell. The two men met at the Floyds’ residence in the summer of 2013 right after Mitchell transferred to WSU from North Carolina State University.
No matter how busy their lives got, Mitchell and Allison made it a point to meet at least once every week, usually on Tuesdays, just to catch up.
Elson Floyd’s death in June hit both men hard. But in some ways, it also strengthened their resolve to finish what they’d started.
“The ultimate goal is to be successful in life, but the immediate goal was to make sure I graduated and finished strong because that’s what my uncle wanted to see,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell graduated from WSU this month with a criminal justice degree.
Allison, 21, is not far behind him. The Cougars’ senior linebacker plans to take the LSAT on Feb. 13. He will graduate in the spring with degrees in criminal justice and political science and wants to go to law school.
Everything he’s accomplished to this point, Allison says, is a direct result of his mother’s hard work and the way she raised him.
“We had a plan from the beginning,” Allison says. “Me and my mom set out, since I was a little boy at 7 years old, to make sure I’d get my degree and continue with my life.”
But Elson Floyd was one of the many people Allison met at WSU who helped him stay on the path his mother laid out.
“He was a mentor to me,” Allison said. “He stayed on me as far as grades and he made sure I didn’t get sidetracked and kept my eyes on the big picture.”
Walking across the stage at graduation will probably rank high on the list of the milestone days that Allison will wish his mother had been able to witness.
But somewhere up there, Allison knows, his mother and Floyd are watching over him.