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From football to finance

As an offensive lineman at Purdue, Ian Allen blocked for All-American quarterback Drew Brees. He followed that with a six-year career in the National Football League with the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Arizona Cardinals, where he played in front of standouts Kerry Collins, Donovan McNabb, and Kurt Warner. Now, as an MBA student in Krannert School of Management, he’s preparing to safeguard corporate finances as he enters the business world.

“I guess I was made to protect valuable assets,” Allen says.

A native of Newark, New Jersey, Allen moved to the Atlanta area when he was 10. He spurned college football offers from in-state schools Georgia and Georgia Tech because he wanted to “play for an underdog.” The Boilermakers went 3-8 in Allen’s freshman year, leading to a coaching change. Joe Tiller took over the reins of the program, and he helped lead a turnaround that saw Purdue win the Big Ten title and play in the Rose Bowl during Allen’s senior season.

A piece of advice that Tiller gave his players rings true to this day with Allen. “He told us to do what you’re supposed to do, do it when you’re supposed to do it, and do it that way all the time,” Allen says. “That phrase stuck with me as my mantra.”

Following his pro career, Allen put his undergraduate communications degree to work as an analyst for the Big Ten Network and Sky Sports in the United Kingdom. He also owned his own recording label, Nova 53 Records, which featured easy listening music.

His career plans shifted after he attended an entrepreneurship program at Northwestern University. “When I looked at where I wanted to go in the business world, I realized that I was about 30 years behind in my thinking,” Allen says. “I had to do something to raise my business acumen, so I decided it was time to get an MBA.”

Allen will conclude his first year in the program this summer with an internship in the global finance area at General Motors in Detroit. He says his first two modules as an MBA student have helped him focus on a future goal.

“When I came in, I thought I wanted to run my own chain of hotels or cafes,” he says. “But now my ultimate goal is to get into corporate finance and to take a company public. I think it would be really cool if I—or my children—could put a company on NASDAQ someday.”