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Amy Donaldson: Snow gives players a second chance

Published: Monday, Dec. 5 2011 12:49 a.m. MST

EPHRAIM — For some people, it isn't the road less traveled that makes all the difference, but the road never seen.

Like a lot of little boys, Breon Allen and John Mahe dreamed of playing college football. They were lucky; they were gifted.

So they didn't just dream about playing college football, they planned to pay for their educations with their skills.

And it looked like a real possibility until their senior seasons. Mahe wasn't allowed to play football his senior year, while Allen wasn't able to get the grades necessary to accept a scholarship offer.

Game over. Find a new dream.

But what these two Snow College football players chose to do was turn a dead end into a detour. And by doing so, they illustrated it isn't how you reach your goals that's important, just that you never stop trying.

And Saturday afternoon they experienced just a little taste of how sweet it is to live out a dream. Allen was named the offensive MVP of Snow College's win over Eastern Arizona in the Top of the Mountains Bowl Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium, and Mahe was named the defensive MVP.

A few months ago, college football didn't seem like an option for Allen, and a strange twist nearly stole football from Mahe a little more than four years ago.

Mahe transferred from West Jordan to Copper Hills right before his senior year and was denied athletic eligibility from the Utah High School Activities Association. That meant standing on the sideline unable to show college coaches what he could do.

His dream of financing his education with his football skills seemed dead. That is, until someone suggested he walk-on at Snow College.

"It paid off today," said Mahe smiling. "Football is paying for school, which is something I love to do. But more important is that (the game) is getting the real things done, which is going to school."

He said walking on was hard.

"It was difficult, but I love Snow College because coach (Tyler) Hughes gave me a shot at playing wide receiver."

After a year of playing, he went on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Boston, Mass., and the experience changed him, inside and out.

"I gained too much weight on my mission," he laughed. "Coach wanted me to play fullback, but I thought I was too big. So I moved to defense."

In defending what other teams want to do on the field, Mahe found his calling. He was the second-leading tackler in Saturday's game.

For Allen, growing up in Daytona Beach, Fla., was a little bit of heaven — warm temperatures, beaches, a never-ending array of activities.

It was also an area riddled with trouble — gangs, crime and about a million ways to drive your life into a ditch.

Allen, a 5-foot-7 running back, first committed to the University of Pittsburgh. Then he changed his mind and committed to a Division II school, Bethune-Cookman. When he failed to meet NCAA academic qualifications, it seemed his days of playing football were finished.

Then a coach made a phone call to a man in a place he'd never heard of in hopes there might be a scholarship playing for a team he'd never considered.

"I had forgot about the state of Utah," he said after Saturday's game. "No disrespect. I just forgot it was on the map. I come from where it's a beach, to somewhere where there is nothing but farms, mountains and a stop light."

A high school teammate had already accepted a scholarship to play for the Badgers, and that made it easy to say yes when Snow coaches offered him a tuition-free education in late summer.

It is a decision, he said, that gave him more than just a way to revive his dreams of playing college football.

"It ain't done nothing but teach me how to be a man," he said. "It taught me how to be responsible."

He said the atmosphere at Snow has helped him focus on his grades like never before, and it has also strengthened his Christian faith.

While Mahe mulls over scholarship offers from several four-year colleges (he hopes to go out of state), Allen returns to Ephraim next season. And unlike last year, playing for the Badgers is at the heart of his plans.

"I'll come back next year, get good grades and win a national title," he said with a grin.

email: adonaldson@desnews.com

twitter: adonsports

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