EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – He’s gone from homeless, to one of the top trainers in the world, but former New Mexico State football player Justin Allen will always see himself as an underdog.
“Every day I wake up and I feel like I’m last, and I’m working to finish first,” said Allen. “Whatever that looks like to God, I know that’s me helping and serving people.”
Born in Houston, Allen played exclusively basketball as a kid, but went to San Francisco City College to play football despite never playing a down of high school football.
After winning a junior college national championship in the Bay Area, Allen earned a Division 1 scholarship to NMSU. However, injuries plagued his time as a wide receiver with the Aggies; he had surgery on both of his hips that effectively ended his career. It was a dark time for him.
“I was in depression leaving New Mexico State,” said Allen. “My career didn’t go the way I wanted it to and I had to reinvent myself. I had to find out who I was.”
His dreams are being realized now. In the last four years, he’s opened his own facility, All-en Sports in Houston; he’s been featured on the Netflix documentary Last Chance U; become an official Nike trainer; and worked with dozens of professional athletes. The most recent? The 2018 NBA MVP, Houston Rockets guard James Harden.
Allen said when Harden’s team approached him about working with the NBA superstar at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he thought it was a joke at first. Regardless, he invited the eight-time All-Star to come to the park outside downtown Houston where Allen was conducting workouts for other professional athletes, including Baltimore Ravens star Earl Thomas and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jarred Vanderbilt.
“Harden’s manager hit me up and said he wanted to work. He ended up pulling up to the park and we got to work and we just hit it off,” said Allen.
He and Harden became fast friends; during the NBA’s shutdown Allen traveled with The Beard to train him in Arizona and Miami.
“Whether we were playing video games or training, or playing cards, having fun with the boys, it’s always high energy, great spirits, and he wants to compete,” said Allen.
Allen specifically targeted Harden’s weaknesses and changed his diet with the idea of extending his career as long as possible. The results were immediate.
“I showed him stuff he’d never been taught and hadn’t worked on,” said Allen. “Sometimes when your skillset is elite and lethal, people just try to work on what you’re good at. I wanted to break him down and have these next 8-10 years be as good as his first 10 or 11. He’s still the MVP, but he wants to be better and that’s the only way to get there.”
For his part, Harden has publicly said how great Allen’s program was for him.
“He’s great. He’s young and he’s energetic, and he just pushes me,” said Harden. “He’s been doing it for a couple years now and he did an unbelievable job.”
Allen comes from athletic family; his older brother Dwayne Allen has played in the NFL for nine seasons and won Super Bowl LIII with the New England Patriots.
Though the brothers are close, Justin has shied away from using his brother’s status as a professional athlete to help his ow business. He wants to do things on his own.
“That would have been the easy way to blow up as a trainer,” said Allen. “We decided that the best thing for me to do was to do it without working with him. I wanted his success to be his and my success to be mine.”
He’s got national notoriety now and Allen said he would one day like to help the Aggies come to prominence. Right now, it’s all about his mantra of being there for as many people as possible.
“I want to continue to grow, genuinely, and continue to shine my light and continue to help people,” said Allen.
Without a doubt, he has all the credentials.