Allen's career speaks for itself

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

The one sporting regret in the celebrated life of Damon Allen is that he never took a real shot at the National Football League.

He thought about it at times. He hoped someone might notice. He wanted to play with his brother, Marcus.

"We never really talked about that," Allen confessed yesterday, sitting in a comfortable chair at the Rogers Centre on the day Mike (Pinball) Clemons officially re-upped as coach of the Argonauts.

"I always wanted to play on the same team as my brother. I just never pushed the envelope for working out for a team and all you had to go through."

The matter came up yesterday in light of the Casey Printers signing with the Kansas City Chiefs. At age 23, Printers was named most outstanding player in the Canadian Football League. He spent three seasons in the CFL, two as a backup, before getting the big opportunity at age 24 to learn under Trent Green.

Allen waited until age 42 before he was richly awarded as the CFL's outstanding player. Printers had three teams bidding for him in the end -- Indianapolis and Detroit being the other suitors. Allen never once had an offer.

"Different times," he said. "This is an era where the quarterbacks with mobility are getting an opportunity to play. In my era, I would have had to change positions to play in the NFL. Now, if I was in college and coming out, I could very well be a first-round choice. Timing, I guess, is everything.

"When I was a junior (at Cal State Fullerton), the class of '83 was one year ahead of me. Dan Marino, John Elway and those guys. If you're weren't this and you weren't that and you weren't a drop-back passer, you weren't playing quarterback in the NFL.

"When I came out of college, I showed very well in the Senior Bowl and very well at the workout camps." But only the Edmonton Eskimos called.

And no one from the NFL has called since.

"It's like not knowing the answer to a question," Allen said. "You always want to know 'How would I have done? Could I have made it?' That's the regret, really. I would like to have given it a good shot. That's why I like what Casey's doing. I'm happy for him and for anybody who gets that opportunity, but at the same time the CFL is losing a great player.

TRUE OPPORTUNITY

"I know Casey worked out for a lot of teams. I would have liked to have done that myself (years ago). I guess you want to get a true opportunity, not just lip service. I think that's what stopped me. I never wanted to be one of those guys to say I was in the National Football League but I never played a down. To me, it always has been about playing the game. It was my desire to play.

"Did I want to say I played four years in the NFL but I held a clipboard for four years? That wouldn't have meant anything to me.

"It never was about the money. I wish I would have just gone out for a tryout and signed for nothing. Just to allow someone down there to see you perform in a workout situation, see what you're capable of."

Allen did do that with his brief foray into professional baseball. He played on a championship team at Cal State Fullerton and was a draft pick of the World Series-champion Detroit Tigers. Years later, he went to spring training with the Pittsburgh Pirates, just long enough to convince himself he could have made it in baseball.

Long enough so the question no longer lingers.

The way the football question never can be answered.

And in this season to come, in what may be Damon Allen's final year of professional football, the juxtaposition of he and Warren Moon cannot be minimized. Both quarterbacks went undrafted out of college, more because of their colour, their non-traditional style and their chosen position than anything else. Both ended up in Edmonton. Both won numerous Grey Cups.

This year Moon is up for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and should he get named, at just about the time of his induction Allen should be eclipsing his record for most passing yards in professional history.

It won't get noticed much south of the border, but then, Damon Allen never was.


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