It was never going to be easy.
And Devon Allen is starting to realize exactly how hard it is to pick up a sport you haven’t played in six years and play it at the highest level.
“It’s definitely tough,” Allen said after the Eagles’ training camp practice on Saturday. “I didn’t expect it to be difficult. … It’s really fun, it’s really competitive, which is great. It’s not easy, that’s for sure.
Allen is one of the most intriguing undrafted rookies to come into Eagles training camp in years.
He was once a terrific receiver and returner in Oregon, but for the past five years has focused on the track and twice made the Olympic final in the 110-meter hurdles.
Hurdles are easy for Allen. Just six weeks ago he ran 12.84 in New York, the third fastest time in world history. Earlier this month he had the fourth fastest semi-final qualifying time at the World Championships before a controversial false start in the final.
Soccer? It starts from the bottom.
“The (NFL) game is so different,” he said. “I’m starting to realize that now after the third practice. Start to understand the concepts, and the intensity is just much higher.
“Everyone is fast, everyone is strong, so now just try to enjoy learning new skills and don’t just rely on my speed to open up and don’t just rely on my speed to play.
“It’s just learning to train again, learning to play again. I think the nuances are very different from college and it’s been so long since I’ve played that I just have to remember what intensity and pace the coaches want in training and how it’s done. train.
At Oregon, Allen caught 41 passes for 684 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman in 2014. He didn’t play that many in 2015 or 2016, but he finished with 17.0 receiving yards and a 26.1 average. on kick returns.
But that’s ancient history.
We are three days away from training camp and Allen is understandably late. He faces cornerbacks with a ton of NFL experience and rookies who were playing football a year ago.
But he expects to make leaps and bounds as he gets more comfortable.
“It’s really competitive, which is great,” he said. “I have a lot of good receivers that I can learn from even when I’m not doing reps. That’s kind of my focus and my key right now, to learn the offense and take as much information as I can learn to improve myself.
“Because I think my advantage is probably high just because I haven’t done it for so long, I can probably improve a lot very quickly. So that’s really the goal, just to have opportunities when I can, take advantage of my reps, take advantage of my special teams reps as well, because that’s going to be a big part of me in this team.
“Everyone we have is explosive and quick. It’s good that I start with that. Now I just have to learn how to play this position.
Allen said it took a few days to get over his false start at Worlds, a decision that research over the past few weeks has indicated a very high likelihood that the timing equipment used by World Athletics at Hayward Field in Eugene was not working properly for early events involving starting blocks.
“It looks like based on the data, there was something a little off,” Allen said.
But he said he got over the disappointment quickly. There’s no doubt that diving headfirst into a new sport has helped.
Allen, 27, said he’s not done with the track, but right now football is his focus, and he really wants to give it an honest chance.
“I would love to try,” he said. “It’s not a one-time thing. It is a commitment on my part. As long as I feel comfortable and I feel like I can play good football, I will play.
“There’s a point in everyone’s career where they’re kind of like, ‘Okay, it’s time to go’, and then there is, but until then, I’m in for the long haul. term.”
But the track will still be there.
There will be more world championships next year in Budapest, Hungary, and the Paris Olympics are scheduled for 2024.
“It’s still a goal, definitely,” Allen said. “I have the talent to be Olympic champion and with the shitty circumstances of the world championships I still believe I would have been world champion so I think I definitely have the talent.”
But the immediate challenge unfolds each morning on the grass courts outside the NovaCare complex in South Philadelphia, where one of the fastest hurdlers in history tries to overcome quite long obstacles and become a professional soccer player.
“It’s only been three days of actual training so far and I feel like I’ve improved exponentially with each practice and I’m just a lot more comfortable, and I’ve more reps and that I understand the system and understand what coaches want,” Allen said.
“Personally, I have the talent, just the physical attributes and the talent, to play in the NFL. That doesn’t mean a whole lot. There are a lot more things that have to happen to be a football player in the NFL The mental side and the physical side.
“So that’s something I’m learning now. And hopefully I’ll figure it out.”