New Indiana University football coach Tom Allen and his wife Tracy were in line for their flight back to Tampa, Florida, shortly after he was named Indiana University’s defensive coordinator when a man in line noticed Allen’s IU shirt.

“Are we going to stop anybody this year?” the man asked Allen, not realizing who he was talking to.

“Well I hope so because I think that’s why I was just hired,” Allen shared with the audience at Wednesday’s inaugural The Republic Bartholomew County Athlete of the Year Gala at The Commons.

The 2016 Broyles Award nominee as one of the nation’s top assistant coaches will be entering his first season as the Hoosiers’ head coach, but it took a lot of belief in his own goals to get there. He put an emphasis on the value of a strong work ethic and the power of believing during his keynote speech.

“Don’t let anybody turn you away from your dream,” Allen said to the young athletes in attendance.

Allen received his first head coaching position at Ben Davis High School, but his dream always was to be a defensive coordinator at a Big Ten university. He wrote that dream on a 3×5 card and kept it in his office, a habit he learned from his father while growing up. His first college coaching job came in the form of a special teams coordinator position at Wabash College, a move that some people close to him did not think was a great one.

Allen has had a number of different coaching positions since then and has lived in seven different states in the past decade before landing the defensive coordinator job with the Hoosiers in January 2016. He was grateful when he received the head coaching position this year and said he was he focused on being the best at his job before then. He challenged Columbus’ young athletes to do the same.

“Wherever you are, be all there,” Allen said. “When you’re the very best at your job, place or school, the opportunities will come.”

Allen’s first game as IU head coach came in the Foster Farms Bowl in December, where the Hoosiers fell 26-24 to Utah on a field goal with 90 seconds left. With Allen as defensive coordinator, the Hoosiers defense gave up 25 fewer touchdowns in 2016 than they did the year before.

In his speech, Allen said he looks to see if players like to work hard when recruiting and said the Hoosiers are blessed to have Columbus East graduate Harry Crider on the team for next season. IU also features Columbus North graduate Joe Gedeon, who was the team’s punter last season.

Allen also said being able to recognize some of Columbus’ top athletes at Wednesday’s gala was a tremendous event.

“Even though they were great athletes on the field, they were also great athletes and great people,” Allen said. “They represent their schools in a first-class way. It’s neat for them to be rewarded for that and for others to see it.”

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Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.