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From Rice to Mizzou, Alldredge has plenty to prove in 2021

By Dave Matter
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Rice Owls linebacker Blaze Alldredge (55) recovers a fumble against Army in a 2019 game. Alldredge will join Missouri in 2021 as a graduate transfer in hopes of raising his profile for the 2022 NFL Draft.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Future Missouri linebacker Blaze Alldredge doesn't come with a conventional biography.

First, there's the name. Yes, he was born Blaze Achille Alldredge. He comes from a family of unique names, including brothers Kanin, Jett, Kyron and the late Zen Jr.

"My mom's mom's maiden name was Braze, and they just kind of decided to switch out one letter for Blaze and liked the sound of it," Alldredge said. "Now I've gotten to reap the benefits of it ever since."

Then there's the hair, an unmistakable wild mane of curly golden locks spilling out of his helmet like a bowl of ramen.

Then, there's the journey.

Alldredge was a lightly recruited linebacker out of Celebration, Florida, near Disney World. Some Ivy League schools showed interest, but he opted for a year of junior college to raise his stock on the recruiting trail. A year at Los Angeles Pierce College paid off with a scholarship offer to Rice. He became a two-time first-team All-Conference USA player, nearly led the nation in tackles for loss in 2019 and in the spring will graduate with a political science degree from the prestigious university. Last summer, he interned at a Houston law firm.

"I got a lot of great first-hand experience, even in the pandemic," he said. "I got to hop on Zoom calls, deal with a lot of paperwork and learned a lot about construction law."

The next stop is Mizzou. Alldredge committed to Eli Drinkwitz's team earlier this month, shortly after entering the NCAA transfer portal, and will spend the 2021 season with the Tigers as a graduate transfer, with the hope he'll enhance his credentials for the 2022 NFL draft.

Alldredge's former coaches at Celebration High School have heard from several NFL teams that are putting together scouting reports for this year's draft. Instead, he'll take his chances with another season on the college game's biggest platform.

"To me, that's a mature decision for a kid who knows he's only played major college football for two years," Celebration defensive assistant Jeremy Palmer said. "To give yourself a shot in the best league in the country, that's a bold move and that's betting on yourself. That's Blaze. He's that kid."

At Rice, Alldredge blossomed into one of the nation's most productive linebackers in 2019. Playing the weakside position, Rice was voted the Owls' MVP after posting 102 tackles, including 21.5 for losses, second-most in the nation and just ahead of Ohio State All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist Chase Young, the second overall pick in last year's draft. Alldredge led Rice in defensive snaps (763) per Pro Football Focus and piled up 25 pressures and 16 hurries.

"I was a big-time blitzer for us," he said. "A lot of my (tackles for loss) actually were coming on run plays just from triggering and the guys up front doing a good job keeping me clean. I think a lot of it just came from fast recognition. I think it's definitely something that I can bring to Mizzou's defense too. It's not something that I think is going to fall off. If you look at the games, I had my most TFLs against Power Five teams."

Texas should remember. Against the Longhorns in 2019, Alldredge racked up 4.5 stops behind the line.

This past season, a COVID-shortened five-game schedule for Rice, he again led Rice in defensive snaps (309), missed only one tackle and was again the team's top-graded pass rusher by PFF's count.

"One of the things that I pride myself on is I don't think I have an insane amount of innate talent," Alldredge said. "To play Division I football, you got to have some, but I'm not a freak by any means. What I will do is outwork you and just get better every day. Everything my coaches teach me, I'll take it to heart and I'll apply it on the field."

Shortly after entering the transfer portal, Alldredge heard from Mizzou linebackers coach D.J. Smith, whose sales pitch was simple: The Tigers need someone to compete for Nick Bolton's old job after the two-time All-SEC weakside linebacker entered the NFL draft.

"As a grad transfer guy, I needed an opportunity to come in and be able to compete for a spot right away," Alldredge said. "Obviously, they have a huge hole that they need to fill with Nick leaving. Something that was important to me was getting developed and helping move me along on my dream of playing at the next level. Having a guy like Nick, who's going to be such a high pick and having a coach like Coach Smith who's played in the NFL that knows what it takes, those are all great fits."

Alldredge spent his childhood shuffling back and forth between the coasts as his family moved from Florida to California and back to Florida during his high school years. In 2015, the Orlando Sentinel told the story of Blaze's family and his older brother Zen Jr., who suffered from the genetic disorder Coffin-Lowry syndrome and died nearly six years ago. Zen became Blaze's inspiration.

"My brother, he never stopped fighting," Blaze told the Sentinel at the time. "He had all of these things wrong with his body and that never stopped him from being happy ... even though he had a heart that was too big for his body and lungs that could barely breathe and he couldn't swallow his food because his throat muscles didn't work. So when I'm out there and things get tough, I just tell myself, 'This isn't anything.' "

On the field and around the halls at Celebration High, Alldredge became what Palmer described as "a magnet." His peers were naturally drawn to him. He expects the same to unfold at Missouri.

"I don't know if he completely understood the magnitude at the time," Palmer said, "but he rallied a lot of kids who weren't the best athletes but played great on Friday nights because they knew he'd be there to help them."