Oregon WR Allen says football comes before track
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
By ANNE M. PETERSON
AP Sports Writer
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) In a span of just more than 13 seconds, redshirt freshman Devon Allen cemented his status as a player to watch when the Oregon Ducks open the season this fall.
The nimble wide receiver won the 110-meter hurdles title this weekend in the NCAA track and field championships at Hayward Field, surprising even his track coach.
Allen leaned in to finish two-hundredths of a second in front of USC senior Aleec Harris, then thrust his hands into the air in victory.
"I tried to show no emotion, but I had to," he said. "I was just really excited to win and to score some points for my team."
His time of 13.16 seconds set a record for the NCAA championships, besting Olympic gold medalist Aries Merritt's mark of 13.21 set in 2006 for Tennessee. Allen is the first freshman to win the national title in the event since San Jose State's Dedy Cooper in 1976.
Allen also has the fastest collegiate time since Renaldo Nehemiah set the NCAA record of 13.0 in 1979 while running for Maryland.
On top of that, Allen's victory in the event propelled the Ducks to the team's first national championship since 1984. Top-ranked Oregon finished with 88 points, 18 ahead of runner-up Florida.
While Allen reveled in the Ducks' team victory, he already was looking forward to football season.
"I had a good day today," Allen said after his run. "But it's still football first for now."
Allen first grabbed attention during the Ducks' annual spring game in early May, catching a pair of touchdowns and earning MVP honors.
Oregon needs him. Josh Huff, who set an Oregon record with 1,140 yards receiving last season, has graduated along with fellow receiver Daryle Hawkins, and De'Anthony Thomas, who played at receiver and running back, left school a year early to go pro.
Allen joins a receiving corps that includes senior Keanon Lowe and junior Bralon Addison, who was injured in the spring, as well as sophomores Dwayne Stanford and Chance Allen. Basketball player Jonathan Lloyd, who had an additional year of eligibility outside of hoops, also plans to play at receiver next season.
None of the returning receivers caught more than 20 passes last season.
Allen, who redshirted last year, never thought he'd be vying for a track title. But as the season went on his confidence grew.
"It's just a lot of training," he said. "I was doing so much at the beginning of the year that I think my body was kind of tired. I had to lose about 20 pounds from football season to be able to run efficiently and as the year started going I was feeling better and getting faster."
Track coach Robert Johnson was as shocked at Allen's win as everyone watching. All the Ducks needed at that point to win the team title was a point - which Allen would earn just by finishing.
"I say to myself as soon as the gun goes off, `Just get through the hurdles. That one point will be our 24th point and I don't care what they do after that,'" Johnson said. "Then he passes me, I'm sitting at hurdle six, and he's probably in third. Then I look at the monitor and he's in second, and then he runs off that last hurdle better than most."
Johnson said that Ducks football coach Mark Helfrich helped Allen realize his goals on the track, excusing him from some of his other obligations.
Many of Allen's football teammates went to Twitter to note the feat.
"Wow!!Congrats to Devon Allen for winning nationals in the 110 hurdles you are amazing! Honored to be your friend and teammate (at)DevonAllen13," posted offensive lineman Doug Brenner.
Oregon finished 11-2 last season, capped by a 30-7 victory over Texas in the Alamo Bowl. They were ranked. No. 9 in the final AP Top 25.
Updated June 16, 2014