As a standout, multi-sport athlete in high school, Max Allen was offered scholarships to play soccer at top schools across the country. He ultimately settled on Virginia Tech, which made it to the semifinals in the NCAA tournament when he was a freshman.
But Allen was not satisfied.
“He saw that as a selfish endeavor,” recalled James Kania, Allen’s best friend since high school. “He almost felt like he wasn’t doing his part to make the world a better place.”
So after two years at Virginia Tech, Allen enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy, partly inspired by his father’s military background, Kania said. Kania said he could hear a difference in Allen’s voice almost immediately, a “sense of greater purpose” that his friend hadn’t felt at Virginia Tech.
Allen’s pursuit of that greater purpose was cut short over the weekend when he was killed in an auto accident on the academy grounds in Annapolis. Anne Arundel County Fire Department divers found his body Sunday while searching his white sport-utility vehicle in College Creek, a Severn River tributary near the academy’s Nimitz Library.
“It’s all just kind of a shock,” said Mark Petrone, who coached Allen for four years on the lacrosse team of a private high school in Pennsylvania.
Cmdr. John Schofield, a spokesman for the academy, said it was too early to tell what caused the accident or when it occurred over the weekend. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is looking into the incident as a single-vehicle accident, Schofield said.
Allen, an oceanography major from Chesterfield, Va., was expected to serve as a naval flight officer after graduation and commissioning in May. At the academy, he played club soccer and was a member of the Italian American and Japanese American clubs.
Efforts to reach Allen’s family were not successful.
Vice Adm. Michael H. Miller, the academy superintendent, said in a news release that the school is “deeply saddened” by Allen’s death and extends its condolences to his family and friends.
Kania remembered Allen as a gifted athlete and a loyal friend, someone in whom he could always confide. At the Haverford School, a private boys’ school outside Philadelphia, the two went through the athletic recruitment process together, with Kania eventually deciding to play golf for the University of Kentucky.
Despite his athletic prowess, Allen always had his sights set on something “bigger than himself,” Kania said.
In an Aug. 12, 2013, article in Naval Today, Allen was quoted as saying he was impressed with his training aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington. “We learn about these things at the Academy, through our different warfare classes, but being able to see them in action is really eye opening,” he said in the industry publication.
At the Haverford School, Allen’s athleticism on the soccer field attracted the attention of the lacrosse team, which recruited him as a freshman, Petrone said. Although Allen had little knowledge of lacrosse at the time, Petrone said, the freshman had the “right attitude about it all,” never dwelling on his mistakes for too long.
“He had a lot to learn right away,” Petrone said. “He was just a resilient kid.”
On the soccer team, Allen would go on to win all-conference honors four times and be named league MVP, Petrone said.
Over the years, Kania and Allen visited each other when they had a chance, making the nearly five-hour trip between campuses. “We were always kind of each other’s rock,” said Kania, now an investment adviser in the Philadelphia area. “I just want the world to know what a big heart he had.”