As quickly as Kyle Allen grew, so did his star power. Tabor estimates that Boy Scouts and coaches from about 70 colleges immigrated and emigrated to Desert Mountain over the next few years as Allen amassed more than 8,000 overtaking spots and 86 touchdowns, and on most placements as the No. 1 prostyle quarterback in the recruiting class of sat in 2014. He had a pile of college opportunities – nearly 20, according to his father – and a future that seemed to have no limits.
“I’ve got calls from everyone, from Nick Saban to your name,” Tabor said. “There wasn’t really a place Kyle couldn’t go.”
But the parade ended shortly after Allen left Arizona – and it certainly wasn’t his size that got in his way.
Over the next six years, which included college and his first two seasons in the NFL, Allen experienced a football roller coaster ride that few could have predicted. Ultimately, the 24-year-old started this week for Washington. He was featured in two college programs, was no longer occupied, had the elation to be named a starter, drove a 4-0 run, felt the frustration of a season that dissipated, and then felt the pain Being benched (again) the relief, getting traded and learning the value of real mentors.
Allen’s tortuous path to the NFL isn’t unique, but it’s one he feels close to preparing for his newest opportunity. Washington manager Ron Rivera named Allen as starting quarterback on Wednesday in place of Dwayne Haskins, last year’s first-round pick whose preseason bouts cost him the job.
“One of the things Kyle will bring to the table is a little more offensive experience,” said Rivera. “There are a few things that Dwayne has learned and that Kyle knows about communicating with the offensive line. That will help. “
After 13 starts in Carolina over the past two seasons, Allen is back in a familiar role as the next quarterback for a team trying to rebuild and get to grips with a season with a playoff spot in a rundown NFC East. How long Allen stays in the driver’s seat is mainly up to him. While Alex Smith’s progress could become a determining factor, Allen has the keys for now.
“If you look at my career so far, I’ve been in the league for three years and have played at least one game a year,” he said. “… For me it was just always an attitude to be ready, and if it doesn’t happen, it won’t. But if you do, you are at least prepared for it. “
Grow up fast
When Allen came up from Desert Mountain, he chose Texas A&M because he had the NFL in mind, said his father Mike Allen. The safest route seemed to be through the SEC.
So he turned down the other offers, which included the state of Ohio and the state of Oklahoma, and made his way to the college station in Tex.
He took on the starting job eight games in his first season, went 3-2 to the Liberty Bowl and took MVP honors to bring him into the second year. After starting the Aggies 5-0 in his sophomore year, he threw three pick sixes in a loss to Alabama, an AC joint sprain in the throwing shoulder and two games later for a touted freshman named Kyler Murray.
Allen moved to Houston, where Tom Herman, who heavily recruited him as an assistant at Ohio State, was a coach. But Herman went to Texas while Allen had a season off due to NCAA transfer rules and Major Applewhite was promoted in his place.
“There was a lot of growth right away because there was a lot of challenge right away,” said Mike Allen. “He grew up very quickly.”
A familiar pattern for Allen emerged in Houston when his early success came with a short leash. He was benched after a bad game and had by then had enough of the college routine he kept repeating. When Allen decided to turn pro a year early, he inevitably attracted skeptics. Praised by Boy Scouts prior to joining the SEC, he entered the NFL with an average résumé.
‘I will bet on myself.’ I think that was his exact quote, ”said Mike Allen.
And opportunity arose as more doors closed.
Only two NFL coaches showed up on his pro day in Houston in March 2018, according to agent Brian McLaughlin. One was George Godsey, then the quarterbacks coach for the Detroit Lions.
The other was Scott Turner, then the quarterbacks trainer for Rivera’s staff in Carolina.
“You really made a huge impact on his life,” said Mike Allen of Rivera and Turner. “You are the first coach who really invested in him, believed in him and saw what he is as a man as as an athlete. You gave him a chance and he made the most of it. “
Always “about work”
Another mentor on Allen’s journey was Jordan Palmer, a quarterbacks guru to many.
Palmer was still playing for the Bears when he first met Allen. It was 2013 and Allen was in Elite 11, an annual competition for the best high school quarterbacks in the country. The program is led by former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, and Palmer is one of its coaches.
Palmer has also become one of the quarterbacks trainers, working with prospects and professionals to improve their craft. Allen was a 2013 customer.
To prepare for the 2018 draft, Allen spent most of his winter in California, working with Palmer, and living with potential colleagues Sam Darnold and Josh Allen (no relationship). Allen was not drafted but signed with the Panthers as a college free agent. In the next off-season, the three quarterbacks got back together and rented a house together while they trained with Palmer.
This year things have changed. Shortly after they teamed up in Dana Point, California, the world was shut down because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and what was expected to be a week-long stay turned into a nearly seven-month stay.
Others joined them early on when Palmer was training his draft clients – Joe Burrow and future Washington quarterback Steven Montez were among them – but the core of Allen, Allen and Darnold stayed until they enlisted in their NFL training camps could.
“Because everything was shut down, we worked it through,” said Palmer. “I had never done that before and I will never do it again. … We basically worked six days a week for six and a half months in a row.
“A lot of film studies as a group, a lot of golf, a lot of football talks.”
In Palmer, Allen discovered another trusted advisor in a cutthroat industry. It has also found one of its greatest proponents.
“He’s basically been in a quarterback competition since Kyler Murray joined Texas A&M,” Palmer said. “He has had to fight for his repetitions ever since. He’s one of those people who associate work with success, so he was never interested in compromising. He was never interested in flyers. He always took care of the work. “
Though the Dallas Cowboys showed some interest in Allen as a college free agent, Carolina offered the best opportunity – and a real chance.
“For me, it was the way it is,” said Allen. “I have a man who believes in me and wants to put my name on the table, so let’s go out and take advantage of it. I think Scott [Turner] was a big deal getting me there. “
Allen’s first NFL preseason impressed Rivera, but his late-season work really stood out. Injuries to Cam Newton and backup Taylor Heinicke allowed Allen to take his first regular season action in Week 16 before making his first start against New Orleans the following week. He threw for 228 yards and a few touchdowns in the win.
“What I noticed about him was without much repetition, he knew what was going on. It was ideal because young people don’t usually get a lot of reps, ”said Rivera. “… He played very, very well. Then fast forward to 2019, Cam Newton will be injured, so we [put] cam [on injured reserve] and he starts for me and wins six games. ”
Allen started 12 games for the Panthers last season and led them 4-0 without intercepting. But then the squad was beaten and the team’s weaknesses were exposed. Carolina lost six games in a row before Allen was benched.
“I grew a lot last year,” said Allen. “When I look back on the tape last year, there are situationally many things from which I can grow and learn from in my beginner year last year. I think situational football, and there are a number of other things that I’ve learned from too. But I think that’s the main thing. “
By then Rivera had been fired, and the next opportunity would arise within a few months. Rivera, with Turner as the offensive coordinator in Washington, traded for Allen to compete with Haskins for the starting job. The off-season fight never went the way Rivera had envisioned due to the pandemic, but Allen’s experience in Turner’s system and behind the scenes work showed enough.
“He’s always stable,” said Rivera. “He’s always the same guy. He’s very smart, very exhilarating, very well prepared. It’s hard as nails. He doesn’t say much. He just goes about his business. He is very professional.
“Kyle is a little outsider.”