"JVA is one of the most improved players on the team and has developed into a legitimate weapon at the tight end/h-back position." – Tim Murphy, The Thomas Stephenson Family Head Coach for Harvard Football
Q: What is your concentration?
I study Sociology and Government at Harvard.
Q: What do you hope to do in life once football is finished?
Once football is done, I would like to travel the world and see different cultures around the globe. That has always been something on my bucket list. I plan to work on finance for a couple years. Then, I hope to return to business school before embarking on some entrepreneurial endeavors.
Q: Can you explain the nuances of your position and provide something for the casual fan to better understand your position?
A tight end/ H back is essentially a jack of all trades - you need to be able to do it all. As a tight end/H back, you need to be tough enough to block down in the trenches with linemen and athletic and smooth enough to get a good release off of DB and make those big time catches. Coach Murphy often refers to the tight end group as the SEALS of the offense, due to our versatility and ability to do it all.
Q: What's your favorite Harvard team to watch as a fan?
My favorite teams to watch here at Harvard would have to be the basketball teams, as it's always a great game day atmosphere with the crowd cheering the men and women on, plus it never hurts to get some Harvard paraphernalia from the athletic department.
Q: What are the hardest parts of being a student-athlete at Harvard?
The hardest part of being a student-athlete at Harvard is probably balancing the rigor of the classroom with the competitiveness of the playing field and being expected to perform at high levels in both. Being Harvard students, we don't have some of the academic amenities that you may find at an Ohio State or Alabama. Rather, we must dedicate the same amount of effort to the classroom as everyone else, which I have come to appreciate as it teaches us to prioritize and the true meaning of hard work.
Q: Who do you like lining up against in practice?
I like lining up against Raishaun McGhee and Kolbi Brown because they're my roommates and we always have a little friendly competition amongst each other. I know we can always talk a little smack to one another, which may or may not come up later when we're all eating in the dining hall. Having this friendly competition has allowed us to push each other to get better and helps set the tone for the entire practice.
Q: Who has the best nickname on the team and why?
I think DJ Mott may have the best nickname on the team, which is Daquan. This nickname was given to him by me when he was staying with us during one summer for workouts. We wanted to mess with him a little bit, so we decided to call him by every name except his actual name. For some reason the name Daquan stuck and everybody began calling him it including players, coaches and himself.
Q: Do you have a nickname and how did it come about?
Everyone usually calls me JVA, which is short for my full name John Van Allen. This is name that essentially catches on everywhere I go, I never actually tell people to call me JVA, but it somehow makes it way back time and time again. Even this summer, I interned at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and sure enough the name made its way to New York City with me. I have no preference though, John or JVA are pretty interchangeable.
Q: How has playing football at Harvard better prepared you for life?
One thing Coach Murphy preaches is adversity training and playing football at one of the most prestigious universities in the world has been exactly that. Sometimes in football things won't go your way, but it's how you react to those moments of adversity that really tell you about yourself. Being a student-athlete at Harvard, you have to learn to be organized, have a short term memory, and be a hard worker. Football, specifically football here at Harvard, has taught me so much about myself as a student, an athlete, and a man. The game has been a great teacher over the years and I am truly thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the Harvard football family.
Q: When you leave Harvard, what do you want your legacy to be?
When I leave Harvard, I want to be known for my character. I pride myself on being someone that everyone respects, loves, and enjoys being around. I'm not the loudest guy on the team, I would much rather let my play speak for me. I want people to know that I worked day in and day out to contribute to my team and be one of the best players on the field each and every time I stepped on it. I want to help this 2016 team to another Ivy League championship and be a part of the first class in Harvard Football history to win four consecutive Ivy League championships. Simply put, I want to be remembered as a champion, who was a leader on and off the field.
Q: What is your favorite memory on the football field?
My favorite memory on the football field would probably have to be our Harvard-Yale game during the 2014 season. It was culmination to a great season, ESPN College Gameday, a packed stadium, with the Ivy League championship on the line. The atmosphere was something out of a movie, as the game came down to the very last minute and some huge plays by two great former Crim, Andrew Fischer and Scott Peters. With Scotty Peters sealing the game with an interception with less than a minute left to play, the sidelines erupted and you could feel the roar of the crowd. With that game, we went on to have an undefeated season and win another Ivy League championship.
Q: Where are your favorite places to eat in the square?
Some of my favorite places to eat in the square would probably be Pinocchios, Zinnekins, and Felipe's, which I like to refer to as Pepe's. However, I have a very bad sweet tooth, so I would have to say my favorite of them all would be Insomnia Cookies. There cookies are to die for, if you have never been you are not living life right.
Q: If you could do anything for a day without any cost considerations, what would it be?
I would probably go skydiving, I've been once before and it was one of the most exhilarating experiences. I'm kind of an adrenaline junky, so roller coasters, jumping out of planes is kind of my thing, another big reason why I love playing football.
Q: What is your favorite Murphy-ism?
Two of Coach Murphy's go-to sayings are "grit" and "blue collar". I'd say he averages about 3-5 "grits" per interview. In all seriousness, grit is a great word to describe Harvard football. Everyone involved with the program understands how important it is to maintain the winning tradition that we have been so fortunate enough to have over the past couple of years, and that doesn't happen without blue collar guys who are willing to put in the work and who have enough grit to make it all possible.