2016 Olympics: Oregon wide receiver Devon Allen goes for gold in Rio
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Sure beats training camp, right Devon Allen?
While his Oregon teammates are busy with football’s dog days of August, the wide receiver is in Rio. But he’s not just working on his tan on the sunny shores of Copacabana. He’s got a good shot at a gold medal.
Allen might be half the world away in Brazil, but he’s still surrounded by fellow Ducks, as 10 Team USA track and field athletes hail from Oregon and seven more Ducks represent foreign countries.
“It's cool to have a big group of athletes that go to one place and kind of funnel out to the Olympic system,” Allen said. “You go to Oregon to go to the Olympics.”
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Allen brought the house down at Hayward Field earlier this year, when he won the 110m hurdles at the U.S. Olympic trials with a time of 13.03 before hurdling the barrier into the crowd and going wild with fans. That mark stands as the third fastest in the world in 2016, only behind a pair of times from Jamaica’s Omar McLeod (12.98 and 13.01).
Turns out Allen will be performing under the Monday night lights on a track before an NFL field. He and McLeod figure to be top contenders in the day’s prelims.
The 21-year-old from Phoenix has the full support and backing from his football coach Mark Helfrich, for what could possibly be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And you can bet that the Ducks football team will be tuned in to their TV sets when Allen takes to the starting blocks.
"I remember sitting in his living room in the recruiting process talking about the distinct, viable, tangible possibility of playing in the NFL and participating in the Olympic Games," Helfrich said during Pac-12 Media Days. "From day one the guy had a plan, and a willingness and desire to see it through has just been unbelievable."
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Allen has established himself as one of the many robust weapons on Oregon’s offense -- his speed obviously a major factor. In 2014, Allen posted a career high 41 catches for 684 yards and seven touchdowns while helping the Ducks reach the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship.
But Allen couldn’t be on the field in Texas that night. Eleven days earlier, he tore his ACL, MCL, and meniscus while returning the opening kickoff in the Rose Bowl versus Florida State. On a surgically-repaired knee, no less, Allen can still compete with some of the fastest people on the planet.
“That definitely took a village to get me right,” Allen said. “There were days where I was sad and upset, but they forced me to do some kind of rehab. My family and my friends, they’ve always pushed me and encouraged me to be the best at whatever I do, whether it be sports or any other aspect in life. They had a big hand in why I’m here today.”
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Allen claimed the 2014 NCAA 110m hurdle title before repeating in 2016. He’s been juggling the responsibilities of football and track at high levels for eight years now, and says the biggest difference is controlling his diet. While he needs to slim down for track, he needs to bulk up for football in the fall. For now, he’s staying lean and mean.
When you’re one of 22 players on a football field, there’s only so much influence you can have on a game. But Allen relishes the opportunity to shine in Rio.
“I think in track and field it’s one of those of things that what you put in it is what you get out of it,” Allen said. “I just enjoy competing. I know that in order to do well, I have to work hard. Football, it’s a team environment which is a lot of fun for me, but you can't really control everything during a game. Track and field is definitely something you can control more as an athlete and I like that.”