Allen's outstanding!

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- In Hollywood, late in his career, they finally gave John Wayne an Oscar.

It was the same story here last night.

In Canada, after his 21st season, they finally gave 42 year-old grandfather Damon Allen the CFL's most outstanding player award.

Like Warren Moon, who won five Grey Cups before they made him the award winner as something of a going-away present in his final year in the league the one season Moon didn't win a Grey Cup, it took Allen all this time to be nominated, much yet win it.

"It's nice to win this award in your prime," Allen drew laughter in the interview room.

"I'm just thankful I didn't retire last year."

Allen said he was "humbled and honoured" to receive the award.

IT'S ABOUT TIME

"After 21 years' service it's great to win this. They only give away one trophy to one guy every year. When I came to Edmonton to start my career, I never dreamed I'd be playing until I was 42 years old."

It's a long time. And it's about time.

"I don't know about the long time, but it feels like the right time. It's the right time for me," said the Toronto Argos quarterback who threw for 5,082 yards this year, the tops in his Hall of Fame career in which he's already the record holder for most passing yards, all-time.

But Allen says he didn't accept it as a going-away present.

"Teams in the CFL have until Feb. 15 to exercise an option clause and the Argos have already given me that letter."

He'll be back for one more year. Two maybe. Allen says the fact that Toronto has been awarded the 2007 Grey Cup has him thinking maybe that might be the place to end it.

He won the Grey Cup last year but didn't give retiring on top with a Grey Cup at age 41 after two decades any real thought.

"Not even close," he said. "I want to play until I can't play anymore.

"I'd rather be in the Grey Cup, but it's really nice to have this happen to me. Every player in the league would love to one day have this honour," said the quarterback who started his career with the Eskimos where he won his first two Grey Cups.

"I'm having the time of my life. I came to the Eskimos in the 80's and I'm playing in the 2000s. I'll keep playing as long as the players I'm playing against still feel I can dominate a ball-game. The respect of the other players in the league means the most to me."

He said it's bugged him a bit that sportswriters constantly refer to him as "a 42-year-old grandfather" but it won't bug him when he reads that again today because those are the same guys who voted him the award.

"Besides, my brother told me to learn to embrace it," he added of NFL legend Marcus Allen.

He says he thinks the reason for his longevity and the appearance that he's not getting older, he's getting better, is experience. "It's just my knowledge of the game and the different defences I've seen in 21 years."

Allen looked back on this career and marvelled at the players he's played with over the years.

Favorite receiver?

"Brian Kelly," he said of the Eskimos great. "He will always be. He taught me a lot about the game.

JACKIE PARKER FAVOURITE COACH

"But there have been so many. I probably need a couple of teams."

His favorite coach?

"Jackie Parker," he said of the first coach he had in Edmonton. "He was great. He was special. The way he handled me as a quarterback, giving me a chance to play and learn."

His second favorite, he said, is the one he has now, Pinball Clemons.

"I had a lot of coaches," he laughed.

Allen said his favorite teams were the Eskimos and the Argos, the teams he won his Grey Cups with early and late in his career. And he said it's special to win the award here: "I played seven years with the Lions. I played more seasons with B.C. than any other team."

Allen, who only needs 1,200 more yards to match Moon's pro football record, said, "he was one of my heroes."

Allen's acceptance speech was short and classy ending with "thanks to my wife, my three daughters and (pause) my grandson. Every yard I rushed, every pass I've thrown, every hit I took, I've done it for my family."


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