Allen brings back fond memories

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

When we last left the Toronto Argos they'd just won the Grey Cup, and MVP Damon Allen was wandering through the media workroom shaking the hands of a couple of veteran scribes from Edmonton who were there when he started his career.

It was like he'd decided he was probably playing his last year and going out on top with another Grey Cup, the fourth of his career.

But he's back at age 42 for his 21st season and the umpteenth annual Damon Allen Farewell Tour, which plays the city where it all began back when Marcus Allen's little brother came north to Edmonton to play for the Eskimos.

The question is if this will be the final time you watch Allen play where he began his career? Will he be the Satchel Paige or Gordie Howe of football and go on almost forever, if he hasn't actually done that already?

One thing's for sure. The Argo faithful certainly aren't screaming to get rid of the old fart. In fact, the scream last week was why head coach Pinball Clemons chose to rest Allen's injured ankle and then throw him in when the score was 14-0 for Montreal at the half.

Football fans, for some strange reason, usually find themselves more fond of the young back-up than the aging veteran in the CFL.

But in Toronto, at the half, with young Michael Bishop six-for-11, the Argo boo birds were out.

Allen put together a pair of series to make it a 15-10 game at one point. It turned out to be an 18-10 loss to the Als, but Allen went 21 for 30 in the second half, despite his ankle injury, to set himself up for the trip to Edmonton with an exclamation mark instead of a question mark.

And as he heads here, Allen will be finding a new focus for his career - that of moving closer to breaking ex-Eskimo Warren Moon's all-pro football career record of 70,553 passing yards in his 23 pro seasons, the first six in the CFL with Edmonton.

Allen goes into tonight's game 4,289 shy of the mark and has a good chance to break it next season if he chooses to play another one.

Hey, if you're that close ...

Until Ricky Ray won one for the Eskimos in 2002, Allen was twice the answer to the name of the quarterback who last piloted the Eskimos to the Grey Cup.

He did it in 1993 when offensive co-ordinator Adam Rita brought the so-called "Sally Rand" out of mothballs and worked the naked bootleg for all it was worth to turn a less-than-sensational season into a championship year for head coach Ron Lancaster. The Eskimos won their final eight straight, including the Grey Cup game 33-23 over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, to win their 11th title. Allen was voted Grey Cup MVP.

That was Allen's second life as an Eskimo. His first was back when, following the departure of Warren Moon, the Eskimos were churning quarterbacks out for the rest of the league like crazy with the likes of Tracy Ham, Matt Dunigan and Allen.

Dunigan was the starter in the 1987 Grey Cup game for the Eskimos, but was injured. It was Allen who stepped in and took the team to the promised land for 10 of their now 12 Grey Cup titles in the 56-year history of the league's flagship franchise. Allen was named Grey Cup offensive player of the game in the Eskimos' 38-36 win over the Argos.

He also won a Grey Cup with the B.C. Lions in 2000.

Allen goes into Saturday night's game against the Eskimos as the CFL record holder for most pass attempts - 8,426; most pass completions - 4,717; most all-time passing yards - 64,496; and most passing touchdowns - 360.

He had a solid first third of the schedule with a efficiency rating of 108.2, second only to Dave Dickenson's 117.2. He was fourth to Ray in passing yards with 154 completions in 239 attempts for 2,024 yards and 14 touchdown passes against only four interceptions.

Those are not the stats of an oldest-player-in-the-league, washed-up, ready-to-call-it-a-career quarterback.


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