Ready to run: Oregon's Devon Allen talks about his injury, track aspirations, more
EUGENE, Ore.—Lots of questions have been asked (and a few answered) about Oregon's quarterback situation this off-season. The defending Pac-12 champion Ducks open the 2015 campaign Saturday against Eastern Washington, an ironic opponent considering the Eagles' quarterback from last season, Vernon Adams, will show up to Autzen Stadium in a Ducks uniform. The graduate transfer was named the starter last week, and no one knows how he'll perform.
We'll get that answer in the coming weeks. But we do know this much: Oregon redshirt sophomore receiver Devon Allen, one of the fastest men in college football, is healthy and anxious to return. After tearing the ACL in his right knee while bringing back the opening kickoff in last January's Rose Bowl against Florida State, Allen missed the national championship game and all of the 2015 track season. (He won the '14 NCAA and U.S. outdoor titles in the 110-meter hurdles.) Campus Rush chatted with Allen about his comeback, his track aspirations and his new quarterback.
Devon Allen: I just knew my knee hurt a little bit. I had dislocated my kneecap the year before and I was only out a week, so I thought it was the same thing. That's why I got up and jogged off the field. It wasn't good that I was hurt, obviously, but it was exciting to watch us dominate Florida State and play so well as a team. Once my adrenaline wore off I started to get sore. I tried to stay off to the side because I know when I see an injured teammate right in the middle of everything, I can get emotional.
CR: After your surgery, who took care of you? And were you a good or bad patient?
Allen: The week of my surgery, my dad came and took care of me that weekend, then he flew back home. The next weekend my mom flew up and helped me out. I think I was a good patient. I pretty much just laid in bed. It was weird because my mom was treating me like I was sick, making me chicken noodle soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, Sprite to drink. It was good to spend time with my family because usually, when they're here, I'm really busy with practice and games, so it was cool to have them just hang around.
CR: You missed the 2015 track season because of injury, too. Was that harder to miss than football? Or is it tough to pick which sport you love more?
Allen: I really wanted to be the first athlete to win a national championship in football and track. I know (Florida's) Jeff Demps won the 100-meter dash (in 2010) and the 2009 national championship, but I want a team title and a team title. Of course, they're so good they didn't even need me.
CR: You're not a football player who is fast and just runs track—you're truly a track junkie. I read somewhere you watch meets online and closely follow results.
Allen: Yep. The world championships were last week and weekend, and in Beijing they're 15 hours ahead. So, the finals there were at 7 or 8 p.m., and here it was 5 or 6 a.m. I got up a few hours early (during fall camp) and watched the 100 final, the hurdles final and a couple others.
CR: When you were being recruited, was it always as a two-sport athlete?
Allen: So my junior and senior year in high school, the (Oregon) track coaches were interested in me because I was a sprinter and hurdler and because I had won state championships. I was kind of an all-purpose guy for the track team. So, took a visit. I wasn't really in contact with the football coaches yet. They were sending me letters, but everyone gets letters, right? I came on my track visit, was really impressed and then a couple days after coach (Mark) Helfrich got the job (when Chip Kelly left for the NFL), they called and offered me a football scholarship. I actually considered Florida State, but I'd have had to walk on to the football team.
CR: Weird how things work out. Any track event you'd really like to try, or that you think you'd be good at?
Allen: Decathlon. My coach here, Jamie Cook, is the decathlon coach and I've talked him into letting me try. I was supposed to do one last year, but I was hurt obviously. It is a tough event. I know people here (in Eugene) respect it, but I'm not sure other people really know how tough it is. I did it a few times in high school and it was later in the evening, so we ran the 1,500 at 1 a.m.—and we had run the 400 the day before at 12:30 p.m.! Pole vault is definitely the scariest part, and hardest is probably the javelin.
CR: What is your dream 110-meter hurdle race?
Allen: O.K., we've gotta clarify we're pretending (the runners) are all in the peak of their career. I'd want it to be: David Oliver, Aries Merritt, Colin Jackson, Allen Johnson, Renaldo Nehemiah, Dayron Robles, Terrence Trammell. And I'm in Lane 3.
CR: Wow, I'm going to have to look up every single one of those people. I know you're really close with your twin sister Carissa, who plays volleyball at Northwest Christian College in Eugene, and you've said she is the best athlete in the family. What sports could she beat you at?
Allen: Volleyball, for sure. Soccer. As a brother, I see how good she is at things and I really wish she would have kept playing soccer because she was a monster goalie. We did tennis, and she was better than me at that. When we were younger we used to fight and she'd beat me up all the time, so maybe MMA. She's probably a better swimmer than me, too.
CR: Could she beat you in any track event?
Allen: I hope not!
CR: Everyone at Oregon has been asked nonstop about the quarterback situation here, and now Vernon Adams is the starter. What has practice been like with him?
Allen: Just this week I've been working into the team stuff, so I've kinda been off to the side. You wouldn't even know Vernon wasn't here all summer. You can tell he spent a lot of time working hard and learning the playbook.
CR: You've had the unique position of being on a sideline a lot this off-season. Who will surprise everyone this year?
Allen: (Running back) Taj Griffin. He's a freak athlete. And (cornerback) Ty Griffin. So, the Griffin brothers.
CR: Last five questions, rapid fire. Besides the Civil War, what is your favorite sports rivalry? And who do you root for?
Allen: Hmm. Um. (Laughs after long pause.) This is not rapid fire from me. O.K., Brophy, my high school (in Phoenix), versus St. Mary's, our rival. And obviously I'm rooting for Brophy.
CR: You're an NFL GM with the first pick in the 2016 draft. Who are you taking?
Allen: Well, I'd like to take me. But if I had to be unbiased, I'd say (Oregon defensive end) DeForest Buckner. Hopefully I need some D-linemen. If not, he can play quarterback, too. He'd be good at that. (Editor's note: Buckner is 6' 7" and 290 pounds, just for the visual.)
CR: Favorite person to follow on Twitter?
CR: What song do you have on repeat right now?
Allen: "Real Life," by The Weeknd.
CR: Some people think you're the fastest person in college football. If you could race any player to prove it, who would it be?
Allen: Kolby Listenbee, the receiver from TCU. John Ross, the receiver from Washington is a speedster and we watch them play all the time, so that'd be a good race, too. (Oregon) running back Tony Brooks-James got a little big for his britches this year, just because I wasn't running. But we're going to have a race this next track season, we're gonna do a 60 or a 100, all the football players who run. Whoever loses can't talk for the weekend. They can text or write notes, but zero talking for two days.