Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — Before the Fairfield football team’s home opener against Ottumwa last Friday, junior quarterback Tate Allen took a knee and had a moment alone in prayer or so it would seem to the naked eye.
But Allen wasn’t alone. Instead, he was talking to one of his most loyal supporters, one who isn’t with the Trojan family any longer.
Mel Allen Sr., Tate’s grandfather, died one day after Christmas in 2020. The longtime Trojan supporter was one of the now over 650,000 Americans who have died of COVID-19.
“My grandpa came to every game he could,” Allen said. “He was just a great all-around guy. He knew everyone in this town, and everyone loved him.”
Allen said he takes his silent pregame moment as a chance to talk to his grandpa.
“I just talk to him and have a conversation, me and him,” Allen said. “I tell him I love him and that's pretty much it.”
Allen and the Trojans defeated Ottumwa 27-7 in their first game since his grandpa’s death. It was Allen’s second game as starting quarterback, and he is 2-0 to start the year.
“He has always wanted me to play quarterback,” Allen said. “This is the first year I've had the chance to play it, and I'm just trying to show him what I can do.”
Teammate and fellow junior Max Weaton has played sports with Allen throughout their lives. He said he has fond memories of Mel Sr., dating back to when he and Allen were little kids.
“I love and miss him dearly,” Weaton said. “He was a great role model, and a great guy.”
Mel Sr. was known for sitting on the south side of the Trojan’s home football field. Now, in his place is a bench erected in his memory, one that is just steps away from the Trojans’ victory bell. After ringing the bell last Friday, Allen and his teammates were able to embrace right next to where Mel Sr. used to sit.
“I can go talk to him after every win we have … or loss, too,” Allen said. “It's awesome.”
Allen described his grandfather as someone who was loved by the Fairfield community and who loved the community back. One thing is for sure, Mel Sr. will be weighing heavily on the hearts at Fairfield High School this fall, especially the Trojans’ man under center.
“I want to be like him some day.” Allen said.