The DNA of a Champion

Meet Newly Hired Carroll Athletic Director Darren Allman From Mojo Power to Dragon Pride – The DNA of a Champion

Graduating from Odessa-Permian High School in 1987, Darren was a member of their state championship Permian Panthers football team (of Friday Night Lights fame). As a defensive back, he still holds the record at Permian for the most interceptions in a single game – 4. After graduation, Darren spent the next two years enrolled in the football program at Texas Tech University, then transferred to Hardin-Simmons University in 1990. This was a decision that proved to be pivotal for his career. It was there he met legendary high school coach and lifetime mentor Jimmie Keeling, who had been hired by HSU to resurrect the storied HSU football program. Representing a tradition of excellence, Coach Keeling mentored that same attitude in Darren which would become the foundation for development and respect for the profession and for football.

During his three years at HSU, Allman led as team captain and was a three-time All Conference player for the HSU Cowboys. Darren was ultimately hired by HSU as a defensive back coach–his first coaching job. Coach Keeling recounts about Darren, “He was the very first recruit for our new football program. He did a great job! He was obviously a great player, a great citizen, and a leader for the team.” Coach Keeling has enjoyed following Darren’s career and remarked, “He has been in some unbelievable schools with strong high school football programs.”

Leaving Hardin-Simmons, Darren traveled to multiple schools around the state working as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator. And as if it was a scene right out of a great football movie, he was recruited by his high school alma mater, Odessa Permian, for his first head football coaching position as well as athletic director. He helped restore the luster of the Permian program by leading them through two undefeated district championships and three consecutive regional finals. Allman was notably recruited by the high-octane program at Austin Westlake and led the team to a state semifinals and state finals appearance. Most recently, Southlake Carroll offered Allman a position as athletic director and he accepted their offer. Upon reflecting on his incredible coaching career, Darren said, “I thought each job was my last job but when this opportunity (Southlake Carroll) came up, I knew it was right. It was a great fit! I’m familiar with the district and I’m excited about the opportunity for my own kids to attend school in this district.”

Why would a successful high school football coach trade the “Friday Night Lights” for the job of athletic director? Quite simply, Darren doesn’t view being an athletic director as a non-coaching job. Having spent a lot of time doing AD duties while acting as a head coach, Darren views his role as athletic director as an asset to help “coach” his team of coaches to grow and become the best they can be.  He’s trading in coaching kids for coaching coaches. He’s committed to being an active part of what’s happening on the athletic fields and courts and getting to know the kids and supporting the coaches.  

“For coaches to stay in this business a long time, especially in places where the expectations are high, coaches have to set very high expectations for themselves” commented Allman. “That’s the type of coaches we have at Southlake Carroll.”

He believes that if a coach can look back at each days’ efforts and honestly say that he/she has done the very best he can every single day, all year long, to ensure that his team is going to be the very best they are capable of becoming, then he/she can view that as success and enjoy the season. In addition, the coaches need to evaluate the impact he or she had on the program, the staff and the kids, and ask themselves, “How did I grow as a leader?” Ultimate success in his mind is more than the number of trophies on the shelf, but it’s the quality of relationships built over the years and the lives impacted. Allman realizes that sustained success is dependent on community support, 100% high expectations academically, and a balance of athletics and academics that complement each other.

Sustained success on a personal note for AD Allman is grounded on a solid foundation that comes from his faith.  “To be in the business of kids would not only be difficult, but it would most likely be a short career without faith. Teams are built on relationships and the small units inside the teams are where the strong bonds are built,” reflected Allman. “Faith is a necessity to building strong bonds.” Southlake’s workout shirts have the letters “TEAM” and a little “me” underneath to remind them that everyone is part of the greater team. “We are all trying to give our abilities to a greater cause,” said Allman. “Sacrifice, hard work and yes, trying times, are expected; however, with the leadership of coaches who have a strong foundation of morals, then we can inspire kids to be all that they can be. Kids become the products of their coaching staff,” observed Allman.

Partnering with a morally strong and talented coaching staff, the parents of kids in athletics ultimately are the primary influence of their child’s success. As husband to wife Susan, of 23 years, and father to 3 children–Michael, age 16, Emily, age 13, and Abigail, age 9, Darren understands the importance of the family unit and the parents’ role in their children’s athletic pursuits. Allman shared some tips for parents who have a child in athletics. His first recommendation was to enjoy this time because it flies by. Secondly, to be a fan of all the kids on the team, not just your own. Also, the parent needs to be realistic and know that their child wants to make them proud. “Be proud of whatever your child achieves,” said Allman. Finally, to understand how important it is to support the coaches. “The parents’ support of the coaches is a key ingredient to the team’s success!” advised Allman.

AD Allman’s career has brought him to traditional powerhouses across the state of Texas–the kinds of places where expectations are always high and a tradition of success runs deep. He has repeatedly stepped into those roles with a sense of respect for the excellence and tradition that came before him. But he has always been more than a curator of tradition, he has honored the past by forging new excellence and passion in the present. This commitment to excellence that started on a football field in Odessa and was cultivated by Coach Keeling has led Allman to be able to go into historic powerhouses leaving them stronger than he found them. For this reason, Southlake Carroll Dragons can anticipate a promising future!

By: Paula Smith