CFL legend calling it quits

Damon Allen kisses the Grey Cup following the Argos' 27-19 win over the Lions in November 2004. SUN...

Damon Allen kisses the Grey Cup following the Argos' 27-19 win over the Lions in November 2004. SUN MEDIA/Fred Thornhill

TERRY KOSHAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 6:52 PM ET

TORONTO - Veteran CFL quarterback Damon Allen is calling it quits.

A league source requesting anonymity said Tuesday the Toronto Argonauts quarterback has decided to retire after 23 seasons. The source added Allen will make it official at a news conference Wednesday. The source said Allen will remain with the Argos in an unspecified role, but added it's very unlikely Allen will join head coach Rich Stubler's staff.

Dan Lawson, Allen's longtime agent, politely offered no comment when asked if his client had indeed decided to call it a career.

Allen, 44, had maintained as early as last week that he intended to attend training camp and compete for the starter's job.

However, the harsh reality was he would have gone into camp third on the depth chart behind newly acquired Kerry Joseph and veteran Michael Bishop, both of whom signed new deals with the Argos in the off-season.

Allen, a San Diego native, will leave the CFL as pro football's career passing leader with 72,381 yards. The younger brother of Pro Football Hall of Famer Marcus Allen played on four Grey Cup-winning teams and in 2005, he captured the league's outstanding player award.

The six-foot, 190-pound Allen entered the CFL as a free agent with Edmonton in 1985 and also spent time with Ottawa, Hamilton, Memphis and B.C. before the Lions dealt him to Toronto in 2003.

At age 41, Allen led Toronto to a Grey Cup title in '04 against the Lions despite having suffered a fractured tibia earlier in the year. With brother Marcus on hand to watch in Ottawa, Allen captured Grey Cup MVP honours for the third time after completing 23-of-34 passes for 299 yards and one TD. He also ran five times for 10 yards and two TDs.

Allen opened last season as Toronto's starter but was replaced by Bishop in the third quarter of the first game before ultimately dropping to No. 3 on the depth chart behind backup Mike McMahon. Allen later regained the starting job when Bishop was injured and McMahon failed to impress.

However, Allen suffered a toe injury and was ultimately placed on the injured list, giving Rocky Butler the starting job. Allen finished the season 45-of-67 passing for 492 yards and three TDs with no interceptions.

A further sign Allen's time with Toronto had come to an end was the club's blockbuster off-season trade for Joseph, the CFL's outstanding player last year who led Saskatchewan to the Grey Cup.

Allen was a two-sport star at Cal State Fullerton. He led the Titans football team to a pair of Pacific Coast Athletic Association titles but was also a pitcher on the school's baseball team that captured the '84 College World Series. Allen was drafted by Detroit Tigers in '84, the same year that club won the World Series.

Allen never signed with Detroit and instead went to Edmonton in '85. In 1987, Allen replaced injured starter Matt Dunigan in the Grey Cup and captured his first MVP award after leading the Eskimos to victory.

He won his second Grey Cup with Edmonton in 1993 before returning to baseball in '94, signing a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He reported to spring training that year, but left to resume his CFL career with the Eskimos. Allen also won a Grey Cup with the Lions in 2000.

Despite his gaudy aerial numbers, Allen was hardly the typical strong-armed quarterback. Blessed with quick feet and a knack to sense an oncoming rush, Allen often relied on his legs to get himself out of trouble. In 1991 with Ottawa, Allen ran for 1,036 yards, becoming just the second quarterback in CFL history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season - Edmonton's Tracy Ham ran for 1,096 yards in 1990.

Allen is the CFL's career rushing leader among quarterbacks with 11,920 yards and third overall behind only Mike Pringle (16,425 yards) and George Reed (16,116).

As Allen got older, he showed a maturity that often comes with experience. Rather than risk injury by running downfield at the first sign of trouble, Allen often used his scrambling ability to evade the rush and give his receivers time to get open downfield. In 2005, Allen threw for a career-high 5,082 yards and completed 64.1 per cent of his passes en route to capturing his only CFL outstanding player award.

The following year, though, Allen suffered a broken finger that force him to miss roughly a month of action. He made football history Sept. 4 in Hamilton when he broke former CFL star Warren Moon's all-time passing record of 70,553 yards.

The historic completion was a shovel pass to Arland Bruce III, who took the ball 29 yards. Play was halted briefly as Allen was honoured on the field by then CFL commissioner Tom Wright.


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