Tuesday, October 19, 2010
DAMON ALLEN: "ONE OF THE GREATEST CFL PLAYERS OF ALL TIME"
Looking at Damon Allen, there's no doubt he won 4 Grey Cups and 3 Grey Cup MVP awards, or passed 11,914 rushing yards (as his third highest total in CFL history). His whole demeanor screams a colourful yet homogeneous combination of quiet sophistication, humble confidence, and fierce perseverance. Strolling into one of the notorious King St. Starbucks, a tall, dark, and handsome Damon showcased his striking features in a figure-flattering, all-black-vest-and-bottoms outfit, over a soft baby blue blouse - something that might resemble the shade of his famous CFL uniform. Constantly greeted by fans, Damon kindly took the time to converse with everyone who approached him. Of course, one of these fans was me - the interviewer, the one who pursued about a 2-hour long conversation sitting at a toasty, quaint Starbucks in downtown Toronto - like I would with an old friend. Damon - who frequently waved his head and, at one point, even touched my paper while I was jotting down notes - proved himself to be a very passionate human being.
"Sure, I have - had - self-doubt," the San Diego native cried, again confirming his humanity. "In high school, I wasn't really a big kid, so I decided not to play in my first year (Grade 9)." That self-doubt, however, didn't overshadow his love for sports. As a kid, Damon admits he was very "passionate about all different types of sports, especially football and baseball." He was eager to learn everything there was to know about the game, in order to perfect the execution of each rule and athlete's authentic skill: "We would read up on our heroes and emulate what we saw on TV."
This dream rapidly converted into reality, based on a fateful moment between Damon and a family in his neighbourhood. "There was this family who lived in our neighbourhood. They were walking by our home, when I noticed their uniforms. I asked what they were playing for, and they said 'for little league.' I asked my Dad to sign us up." And with that led to learning a lesson about compromising and working towards your goals. "Once I started playing baseball or football, I had that kind of dedication sacrificing summer vacations and birthday parties. I would spend my weekends on the baseball diamond or football field."
For Damon, "Little League" eventually turned into "Big League." Progressing through different levels of football and baseball in PopWarner wasn't difficult even for this middle child of 6 siblings - who was the starring quarterback his last 2 years in high school, on a team that lost a mere couple of games. "That gave us opportunities to be scouted by university coaches for scholarships," he explained. Damon attended California State Fullerton, where he played on the baseball and football team, but was drafted in football by the CFL and baseball by the Detroit Tigers simultaneously. "You can play one sport to the next," Damon claimed in response to my previous question. "I had to decide whether I wanted to play football or baseball. We won the National Championship of the College Baseball World Series. We also won two PCAA (division) championships. I had to make a decision about football and baseball. Obviously, I chose football."
And the rest is history - history-making, literally. Since 1985, Damon went on to play in the CFL for 23 years and break statistical records - like snagging 4 Grey Cups and 3 Grey Cup MVP awards, as well as pulling 72,381 passing yards and 11,914 rushing yards as his third-highest goal in CFL past. Not to mention he was the oldest player to play the league's outstanding played award in 2005. "I was 42 years old, when I won the league," Damon said, then resuming into a tangent. "I was the record-holder of pretty much all the quarterback categories - most touchdowns, most completions, most attempts - except the (most) interceptions."
Underneath all that glory though lies the trepidation and pressure to stay that way. Damon recalled that teams evaluate your performance on a weekly basis and are frequently attempting to better themselves, so there's always that existing threat of failure or disappointment. I asked Damon if there was any athletic self-destruction (achieved by such as implementing steroids) hidden behind the glamourous exterior of the sports industry, which is where he offered a reply filled with implications: "The greater the level, the more risks athletes could take to enhance their performance."
Luckily, Damon continues to aim counteracting any mental or physical downward spirals, with his own 2008-born quarterback academy "The Damon Allen Quarterback Academy." "I teach you how to play the game - mentally and physically speaking. I teach you the responsibilities of being a quarterback, etc." He also hosts an event company that caters to the Grey Cup and donates to amateur football leagues in an event titled "A Knight of Champions." "I'm all about the Damon Allen Brand and what it represents," Damon indicated, a fact so self-explanatory and evident in his abundant achievements and business ventures.
With the kind of ambition, diligence, and talent to nominate him as "one of the greatest CFL players of all time," Damon Allen must possess a motto driving himself on the inside to do what he does on the outside, which is this: "I live by the three dimensions of time: past, present, and future. These are apart of the three questions I ask myself whenever I do something. The past helps me determine which people i.e. heroes have encouraged me (to be the best I can be). The present is about the 'now,' and the future is about my goals." And what does the future reveal for this CFL alum/athlete? "Hopefully, still living in Canada and expanding my football academy." That should compensate for at least another 23 in champion years.