Indiana football was in the news in the days that followed the murder of George Floyd,
Head coach Tom Allen was one of the first college football coaches to speak out publicly.
“My heart is telling me I need to say something,” Allen told Bruce Feldman of his growing discomfort with the situation in a late May story by The Athletic.
While Allen was garnering national for a social media post, it was behind the scenes in Bloomington where the real magic was happening.
“I just want to be there for them,” Allen told The Athletic. “I told them that I can’t relate. I’m not going to act like I can. But I care and I love them.”
Those were not just idle words, as we found out this week when All-Big Ten wide receiver Whop Philyor got his first chance to meet with the media on a Zoom meeting.
What Allen said in that Athletic article was genuine. The fourth year IU head coach is well known for his “Love Each Other” mantra, and he showed Philyor that LEO has real meaning.
“I was really happy that Coach Allen got on board,” Philyor told reporters.
“I was really happy because he let me come in the office and explain to him. I was crying with this man. If I cry in front of a person that means that I love them, I trust them. So, I trust this man with my life.”
If ever Philyor doubted that Allen was the genuine article, he found out first hand that day.
While other programs around the country have struggled with internal relationships in the weeks that followed, Philyor has become Indiana’s biggest cheerleader.
“It is big that Coach Allen and the staff are behind us on that,” Philyor said. “I am so happy that I am part of Indiana, the LEO. It is a brand-new wave, man. We really love each other out here. We do not just love each other, we love others, outside of the building. We love our haters. I am just so happy to be a part of this team and this culture.”
Philyor was very vocal on social media in the days that followed the murder of Floyd also.
“THIS IS RIDICULOUS. WHY? WHAT DID MY PEOPLE DO? Our LIVES MATTER TOO!” Philyor said on his Twitter page on May 28.
Now more than two months later, Philyor still believes that well-known athletes speaking out serves a valuable purpose.
“It was very important to me that I was getting out there letting my voice be heard. I am happy that the staff is behind me because it is not doing anything but educating people. It is just educate, educate,” Philyor said.
While it was important for his own voice to be heard, Philyor also knows that a well-known white man in a position of authority can make a big impact too.
“If they see Coach Tom Allen doing it, they are like, maybe it is the right thing to do,” Philyor said.
With his head coach taking the lead, Philyor saw the potential to start a powerful trend.
“So, if they see Coach Allen doing it, maybe (Ohio State) Coach (Ryan) Day will be like, man Coach Allen is on board, let me get on board so I can have my players on board, Philyor said.
“Then it is going to start a chain reaction.”
Philyor knows that it would be difficult to reconcile a love for a football player while being opposed to their cause.
With players and coaches connected to a game that people love and aligned on a cause, perhaps the conditions were right for hearts and minds to be changed.
At least that is what Philyor hopes.
“When Ohio State is doing it, Penn State is doing it, and then people in football are just going to educate people because everybody loves football. Everybody loves us, so they will be like man, maybe it is the right thing to do,” Philyor said.
In the end, Philyor hoped that the power he felt in Allen’s office that day might somehow permeate society.
“Maybe it is the right thing to care about somebody other than myself,” Philyor hoped others might come to realize.
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