Proud partners, in passing

DEAN McNULTY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

The comparisons between Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon and future CFL Hall of Fame quarterback Damon Allen started 22 years ago when Allen first stepped behind the centre for the Edmonton Eskimos.

Moon, meanwhile, had led the Esks to five consecutive Grey Cup victories starting in 1978.

In1984, he moved to the NFL's Houston Oilers, creating a void in Edmonton that Allen was expected to fill.

A tall order for even the best of the best.

While Allen led the Eskimos to another Grey Cup in 1987 and was named the game's MVP it wasn't enough to keep him in the Alberta capital and he moved to Ottawa a year later.

But Allen more than proved over the next 18 seasons that he was a fitting heir to Moon's legacy.

On Aug. 19 this season, when the Toronto Argonauts suited up against the Montreal Alouettes, Allen joined Moon in the exclusive 70,000 passing yards club.

It wasn't enough that the two pivots were both products of high school football in Southern California, or that both would go to college programs on the West Coast.

When Allen breaks Moon's 70,553 yards -- which he likely will accomplish on Monday against the Hamilton Tiger Cats -- the two will be inextricably linked by a record that might never be equalled in an era when quarterbacks don't throw as often or as far.

Yesterday, the two quarterbacks talked in a conference call -- arranged by the CFL -- about their careers and how each is the other's biggest fan.

"I knew that Warren went to the Canadian Football League when he left Washington (State)," Allen said. "I remember watching the Eskimos during the (NFL) strike year. When I found out Edmonton had my rights I began paying even more attention and I was really inspired by Warren's exploits"

Both men also faced the undercurrent of racism in the NFL where, at the time, African-Americans simply were never considered for the quarterback position. Moon was asked to try and become a wide receiver, but refused.

"Just like him, when lots of teams wanted him to play different positions, I knew that the CFL was for me because I could play the position of quarterback," Allen said.

That, Moon said, makes the passing record so special.

"The fact that I have known (Allen) for so long, knowing that he is the guy who is going to break the record, it makes it even more special that he is African American," said the 49-year-old Moon, who also played for the Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks before retiring in 2000. "Now you are going to have two African Americans at the top of the all-time yardage leaders in professional football where just 20 years ago they said we couldn't play this position."

Allen, 43, said he learned a lot from Moon.

"I think we have watched one another's career from afar," he said. "He has taught me a lot of things, like how to handle yourself on and off the field."


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