By John Jenkins
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
It is the 2001 Baltimore Ravens training camp. The Ravens are fresh off of a dominant Super Bowl victory and a repeat does not seem out of the question. Then a young running back named Jamal Lewis went down with a knee injury, and the team was not the same after that.
Perhaps because of that incident most Ravens fans appreciate the backup running back more than anyone. Some fans may have become a little worried once running back Ricky Williams unexpectedly retired. Fear not Ravens fans!
In the 7th round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens drafted Georgia Tech running back Anthony Allen. A 6'0, 230lb "pounder" by his own admission, Allen could be a great compliment to the "scat back" Ray Rice.
When Allen first heard the news of one of his mentors retiring, he called it a "bittersweet moment." After the news washed over him, Anthony Allen used the news as motivation this offseason.
Being motivated and "hungry" are not new states of mind for the bruising running back. Anthony Allen still feels slighted after watching twenty-five running backs drafted ahead of him in 2011. Allen explains, "I haven't done anything yet, (I have) a chip on my shoulder"
The Georgia Tech product will try to use what he learned from Ricky Williams to solidify what appears to be a big hole on the Ravens roster. On the field, Williams taught Allen "consistency and pass protection." An important off-field lesson learned was "how to take care of your body, put the good stuff in."
It will take more than sage advice from a great running back to be a success in 2012. To prepare for the upcoming season Anthony Allen is training in Miami, FL with Tony Villani at XPE Sports. Villani helped Allen prepare for the draft last year. A variety of prominent NFL players have trained at XPE Sports including former Raven great, Jamal Lewis and current teammate Anquan Boldin, who he sees at the facility occasionally.
Allen participates in several different drills and excersises, but perhaps the most intriguing activity is his work with future hall of famer Chris Carter. Carter is working with Anthony Allen on his route running, which would be a big asset in the upcoming season. Allen cited Carter's great attitude and said that "he makes things fun".
Ozzie Newsome has not spoken directly to Anthony Allen about his opportunity for more playing time, but Newsome was asked in February at the NFL combine and had the following to say:
"We like Anthony Allen," Newsome said. "We're going to give him every opportunity to be that guy."
Most of what Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh have seen from Anthony Allen is from the practice fields. He had only 3 carries for 8 yards in the 2011 season, all against the St. Louis Rams. As many Raven fans know, Allen had a marvelous preseason, one which cost former Raven Jalen Parmele a roster spot.
His rookie season was a humbling experience, particularly after injuring his hamstring in Week 5 of the 2011 season. Allen learned that "tomorrow isn't promised." The lack of playing time weighs heavy on Allen's mind. "Not playing (is) another motivator, I gotta be on that field."
Anthony Allen brings a tough running style to the field but he brings intangibles as well. "I come ready to play, I bring consistency and swag."
When Allen is not working up a sweat at XPE Sports, he helps his father with the Amos Allen Family Foundation. The charity travels mostly around Florida, Allen's home state, in order to motivate troubled youths to better their lives. Every Wednesday and Sunday, the foundation feeds the homeless.
Allen also doubles as an NCAA Basketball prognosticator, picking the University of Kentucky to win it all on the men's side, and Notre Dame to win the women's tournament. It is unknown if he had Norfolk State beating Missouri.
Speaking of colleges, Anthony Allen played at Louisville for two years before finishing his college career at Georgia Tech. So what team does he pull for in college sports, Georgia Tech or Louisville?
"I got to go with Georgia Tech. They wouldn't allow me in the facilities." After the draft, when no longer affiliated with any college, Allen went to Louisville with former Raven quarterback Hunter Cantwell to workout. Allen was asked to leave. "I'm in their record books," laughed Anthony Allen.
I asked Anthony Allen if he thought Ricky Williams would change his mind and come back next season. Allen quipped, "I don't know...but if he does, he better bring it, because I'll be ready." The Baltimore Ravens and their fans certainly hope so.
By John Jenkins