When the defense is barreling down on the Haralson County senior, one thing’s for sure - he’s never going to slide in hopes of avoiding the contact.
No way. In fact, he welcomes it.
Only, he would rather dish out the hits if it came down to an either/or decision. Quarterback? Or defensive animal?
“He’s kind of goofy in that way,” Haralson County coach Frank Vohun said. “He’s an aggressive, athletic kid. If you don’t watch him, he’ll light you up. He doesn’t shy away from it.”
So, more quarterback or mercenary?
Thankfully for Haralson County, the answer is both.
Mixing that unique combination of ultra-quick athleticism and elusiveness with freakish strength, his motor is always running - from mouth, to throwing arm, to lower body. He can lead the Rebel offense down field with arm and legs one minute, then pop a ball-carrier on the other side of the field the next.
And don’t think he won’t tell you about it afterward.
“I love defense,” Allah said. “I love to hit. It feels good to get back out there. I’m a beast, baby.”
As you can see, there’s nothing shy about Malik Allah - verbally or physically - as his multi-colored dreadlocks speak to his outgoing personality.
“Oh, man, I like the dreads,” said Allah, who’s been growing them for three years now. “It’s just a good look. I like to shake them on Fridays. It makes me feel like I’m a beast when I’m out there, like a lion. It’s my mane out there.”
And that flamboyant look is equaled only by his aggressive nature.
“Malik’s not quiet. I’ll tell you what, he’s constantly into something all the time,” Vohun said. “He’s either hollering at somebody or hitting somebody.”
And anybody’s fair game - even friends and teammates. It doesn’t matter.
It’s not unusual to see him chirping away at practice at the opposing offense or defense, just depending on which side of the ball he happens to be on at that particular time.
“He’ll be telling us that we can’t hit and telling us that we’re not going to be able to do nothing and gets us all riled up for games,” said Haralson County linebacker Cody Hicks, who, coincidentally, is also one of Allah’s best friends. “He’ll keep telling us the other team’s going to tear us up and all that. It just motivates us to kick their butts even more.”
Allah said it’s just part of who he is.
“Oh, yeah,” Allah said. “I just love playing out there. Anything that we say will get us going, really. We feed off each other. It’s like a family. We’re brothers. We talk trash out here, we talk trash out there.”
And while all this makes for good football fodder, it nearly became a moot point one year ago.
Allah nearly blew it all. He sat out the first four games of the 2006 season due to disciplinary issues.
His schoolyard shenanigans gave him the Rebel without a cause reputation. And it almost turned him into a Rebel without a team.
“He was one step away from the out house,” Vohun said. “Because he was going to be 88 and out the gate. He was going out the door.
“It was school discipline and Vohun discipline. That’s what it was. It was a combination of the two. He was on his last leg and he had to make a decision.”
Fortunately for Allah - not to mention the football team - he made the right decision. He straightened his act up.
It’s been a yearlong process in the maturation of Malik Allah.
“He’s become stronger and stronger and stronger in a lot of his ideas as an individual and as a young man,” Vohun said. “He’s learned to do what’s best for the football team and him instead of what’s best for Malik.”
Sitting out those four games made Allah physically see how many people he let down. And that finally got to him - this time, mentally.
“It opened up my mind,” Allah said. “I’ve done grown up a lot since last year. It opened my eyes, you know. I have my father with me a lot and he always spoke good words of wisdom. And after I got in trouble last year, I saw how much it hurt my coaches, and my dad, most of all.
“I put my life on hold for football, you know? And it just killed me knowing that I made a stupid decision and it hurt my team. Not just me, it hurt my team.”
With that now behind him, Allah focuses each day on keeping his priorities directed toward the right things in life.
“It made me grow up and show everybody else that you don’t want to do that,” Allah said. “You’ll end up in a bad spot. Football’s what I want to do and that almost cost me everything.”
And you better believe Allah’s No. 1 focus right now is getting his Rebels into the playoffs for the first time since 2005 - the only playoff berth in school history.
Sitting at 5-2 overall and 2-2 in Region 6-AAA play, the Rebels are currently in a three-way tie for the fourth and final playoff slot with Cartersville and Cass.
With three games remaining in the regular season, Allah is primed to get his team into one of those top four positions.
“I feel good since it was our goal since the beginning of the season, before the season and actually after last season ended. We already had our mind focused on this season,” Allah said. “And we’ve been working real hard and coming together as a family. Last year, we were trying to find ourselves. This year, we done found it, man.”
Blessed with an array of talent around him offensively, Allah doesn’t have to do everything by himself.
With play-makers like Anthony Kight, Blake Poole, Juan Singhavong and John Dobbs surrounding him, Allah has plenty of options to work with.
“We’ve got a lot of threats,” Allah said. “They just don’t key on one player. You know, we spread the field around. Everybody plays a major part.
“When we need big plays, we make them. That’s what it’s been. The coaching staff, they’ve been calling good plays. It’s all about guts, really, and who wants it more.”
Allah, who made a number of game-changing plays in last week’s 44-41 region road win over Villa Rica, passed for 201 yards on a 16-for-24 effort with two touchdowns, while also gaining 50 more yards on the ground.
And Vohun points out that some of the plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet are what’s even more impressive, citing a situation where he was all but sacked but was able to break loose and make something out of nothing.
“He grabbed the football out of his right hand that was pinned and put it in his left hand and threw it left-handed,” Vohun said. “It was a completion for about eight yards, but it was all back behind the line of scrimmage. So what he did was put us in second down and 12 or 11, which if feasible, as opposed to second and about 18.”
It’s that type of drive in Allah that makes him such a force of the field.
“He plays quarterback with a defensive mentality,” Vohun said. “He’s just one of those kids where you just as soon have the ball in his hands and you wouldn’t want it in anybody else’s. He’s not going to shy away from trying to get you those yards.”
Allah is looking at a few colleges, but isn’t quite sure what direction he wants to go - although it will definitely be football-related.
“I’m a big (Georgia) Bulldog fan, but (Georgia) Tech might be somewhere I want to go,” he said. “But that’s not final. I just want to leave my options open. Just pretty much go anywhere that’s a good school that will fit me and that’s the best thing for me.”
Vohun certainly feels there’s a place for him at the next level.
“If he keeps his head straight when he goes to college and works hard and listens to what the people that are coaching him are telling him to do, there’s no telling how good he could be,” Vohun said. “When you look at what he’s done so far - you know everybody thinks he’s done a lot - but I don’t know where he was in the ninth grade.
He was here in the 10th grade and he played some, mostly on defense. And then in the 11th grade he sat out. He missed the whole first half of the season. So everything he’s accomplished has been since about Game 6 of his junior year.”
And since that time, he’s been tearing apart teams - on both sides of the ball, of course.
“I want to win,” Allah said. “If it’s passing, I’ll pass it. If it’s running, I’ll run it. I really don’t have a favorite. I like passing, I like running.
“But I’d rather knock some people out on defense. I think this: If you ain’t aggressive, you can’t hit on defense, then on offense, you know, you’ve got to be able to play defense to play offense.”
And you can bet that mindset will never change as the prospect of a playoff berth looms in his sights.
“As long as we want it, we’re going to get it,” Allah said. “As long as everybody has their mind right on Friday nights from here on out and as long as we play like a family, nobody’s going to stop us.”
Spoken like a Rebel with a cause.