They met at Cal. Tracy was a cheerleader for the Bears, Ken a football player. Eventually they fell in love, got married and had a son who they named Drew. Tracy didn’t want Drew to play football like Ken did- she was afraid Drew would get hurt. And if her son did decide to play, she wanted him to be a Cal bear.
None of those things happened.
Drew McAllister is currently playing football as a safety on the USC Trojans. And he did get hurt. Twice. McAllister just recovered from back-to-back hip surgeries in the past year.
“A lot of people don’t always come back from [surgery] so I think it was definitely hard on her not watching me play,” he said.
McAllister’s parents have since divorced, and Tracy still lives in the bay area, near McAllister’s hometown of Danville, Calif. After each hip surgery, Tracy came down for a couple of weeks to tend to her son. Now, she can’t wait to get to the Coliseum to watch her son put in the work on his own.
“I think it was tough for her at first, just getting used to the colors and the fight song and all that,” he said. “[Now] she has all her USC gear and jerseys and comes to every game. She’s a pretty loud fan.”
The redshirt junior’s eyes drift off when he talks about his mom. Brown, glossy pools. They sharpen when he gets back to the game, though, when he talks about why he’s a Trojan. But the two subjects aren’t mutually exclusive. He essentially plays for her.
“Certain qualities you learn from your parents but certain situations really show what people’s character is,” he said.
Qualities like mental tenacity he learned from Tracy. He’s used it to progress in football, and most recently, to get over his injuries.
“Really not being able to play the game I love at full speed was really something hard, especially getting [surgery] done once and working as hard as I could day in-day out for six months and doing it all over again was really hard,” he said. “But I think it made me stronger as a person and mentally.”
Glimpses of that strength caused Pac-12 and Mountain West schools to recruit the then two-way player. At Monte Vista High School, McAllister started at quarterback as a sophomore. He maintained a 65 percent completion rate throwing all three years. Despite his clear capabilities on offense, McAllister enjoyed the physical nature on the other side of the ball.
“There’s just nothing like playing defense. You’re going after the other guys, on offense you’re being chased, on defense you’re doing the chasing,” he said.
As a defensive back for the Trojans, McAllister made an impact when he was able. His first two years donning cardinal and gold, the free safety had 31 tackles and 3 picks. He loves playing the ball in the air and he loves clean tackles. He also loves knowing his mom will gleam every time he does either.
“I kind of take pride in everything I do, just everything, how I deal with situations how I interact with other people, how I approach everything. My mom is the same way,” he said.
After the spring, McAllister is listed behind starter and leader of the secondary T.J. McDonald, but that spot comes with an asterisk: depth chart evaluation unavailable.
“I’m not too worried about who is starting who is not, it’s really for me about getting myself prepared mentally and physically so that when it comes time for the ball I’ll be ready to compete and lay it all out there,” he said.
Nobody knows what level McAllister will compete at. He said he’s close to 100 percent, and any remaining percentage will come through repetition and hard work. A reminder of a strong work ethic is just a phone call away. Tracy has had a full-time job and lived alone since McAllister can remember.
“I’ve always told myself that I want to get [to the NFL] so I can take care of her so she doesn’t have to work anymore because she’s worked my whole life.”
An only child, Drew admitted he’s a momma’s boy, saying he doesn’t think it’s a bad thing. And if he can use that as motivation to come back from adversity, it will definitely be a good thing for this football team.
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