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‘I just freaked out’: A Q&A with the student who video-chatted with Ravens star Lamar Jackson in class

Caleb Allen never expected to get advice from Lamar Jackson on Algebra II. He never expected millions of people to see that conversation, either. But the path to the most memorable conversation of his young life was an admittedly unlikely one.

Allen, a junior at a Georgia high school, grew up a Ravens diehard in Atlanta Falcons country. When Jackson broke out at Louisville, he fell for the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, too, even though he wasn’t a Cardinals fan.

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“And then he came to my team,” Allen recalled in a telephone interview Tuesday.

For as strange as it was to see those fandoms merge in 2018, when the Ravens took Jackson in the first round of the NFL draft, it was far more surreal to actually see Jackson on his iPhone screen Monday, talking to him for a couple of minutes in class. Their conversation on Instagram Live quickly went viral. Now even his grandmother knows Jackson’s hopes for Allen’s grades in his math class.

Allen spoke with The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday about his brush with fame — after school let out, of course. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Take me back to Monday and how that all unfolded.

So I was chilling there, right? And I was with my friend. We’d just finished up our math for the day. We were waiting for the bell to ring to go to the next class. And I’m like, “New_era8 went live [on Instagram]. Why not? I’m bored.” So I click on it. And I’m looking at the chat, and this little thing goes up: “Request to join.” And why not? So I click it. And a little circle comes up. It says, “New_era8 has accepted.” And I’m like, “Cole. Cole. Cole.” I’m freaking out to my friend. And Lamar just comes up, and I’m like, “Holy [crud],” right?

When you clicked that request button, how likely did you think it was that you’d actually see Lamar?

I didn't see it happening.

Did you prepare yourself in any way for the possibility?

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No. Not at all. I just freaked out.

So when you see his face there, what’s your first reaction?

Just “Holy [crud].” That’s my favorite freaking celebrity-slash-athlete ever. I was like, “Wait.” I don’t even know. It was crazy.

How do you think you handled the conversation?

I don't know. I was just kind of freaking out, so of course there were things I wish I would've said. But I was just freaking out so much, I was shaking. The conversation about the grades, you know, it went there. It was whatever. I wouldn't have imagined that'd be the conversation. I don't know. It was cool, though. He's an amazing guy. It was great.

I actually couldn’t make it out on the video. When you told your teacher that Lamar wants to know how you were doing in class, what did she say?

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She said, "He could be doing better, but not terrible."

Have you seen her since that clip went viral?

Yeah, in class today, I was scrolling through Twitter, and she was stamping something on my paper. And she was like, “Are you working with your all your famous fans and stuff?” I was like, “Well, first of all, I don’t have fans.” She was like, “I hope I don’t get in trouble for that.” But my principal saw it and all, and he thought it was cool.

How quickly did that video spread in your life?

I was telling my friends, of course, and one of my best friends was in the class, so first my little [social] circle knew, because I texted them all, that I just talked to my favorite player, and I never shut up about him. But I was at work later that night at Little Caesars, and I was chilling, and my family and my grandma texted me. And I was like, “Wait a second. This is a thing.”

When you told your friends it happened, did they not believe you?

At first, but I screen-recorded it as well, so I just sent that to them, and they're like, "Oh." ... My mom was like, "Bull[crud]. Send proof."

The Ravens played in Atlanta in 2018. Did you see get a chance to see him?

See, I was gonna go, but then, something happened — I forgot [what happened], and I didn’t.

Are you planning to see him soon?

Yeah, I have a friend who’s a friend of the [Kansas City] Chiefs, and I’ve been talking to family. I’m like, “What if I paid for my ticket, he paid for his ticket, and we all go to Ravens versus Chiefs at M&T Bank Stadium [next season]?” My dad thinks that’s a cool idea.

Any other messages for Lamar?

Uhh, I don’t know. I guess next on my bucket list is to meet you.

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