Devon Allen will be in Brazil next month, donning the red, white and blue and competing for the United States of America in the Olympic Games.
It’s arguably the highest honor any athlete could have. It also might be the worst news for the Oregon football program.
All Duck fans, coaches and supporters will undoubtedly be rooting Allen on as he competes to win a gold medal in the 110-hurdles. His Olympic trial winning time of 13.03 seconds is the third fastest time in the world this year, so it’s far from unthinkable that he could return to Eugene with a medal.
If he returns to Eugene at all.
Allen has said that he plans to return to Oregon after the Olympics, though a podium performance is likely to land him a lucrative contract offer from Nike, which is a behemoth in both the track and field and football worlds, creating a difficult decision for Allen to make.
Does he take the money and, quite literally, run? Or does he turn it down, play another year or two at Oregon, and take his chances?
Allen has already suffered an ACL tear, as a redshirt freshman, on the football field. It is remarkable that he has returned to top speed so quickly. It would be something divine if he were to suffer an injury of similar magnitude and return to peak form again.
Nothing is guaranteed, of course. Aside from Usain Bolt, there are scant few certainties in the Olympic Games. And as any hurdler can tell you – Lolo Jones, anyone? – anything can happen in a sprinting event in which you must clear 10 obstacles over the course of just more than the length of a football field while careening down a track at top speed.
“I feel good,” he told reporters prior to the trials. “My health is where I want it to be. You get kind of banged up throughout the season, running so many races and so much – not so much pressure, but in the Pac-12 you have to score points, so there’s a little more added pressure to do well. But I think I have my body back to where I want it to be.”
Whether he does or does not win, Allen at least has the support of his team back in Oregon.
“It’s awesome,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich told reporters during Pac-12 Media Days. “I get misty every time I sit down and think about it for a while because he’s just such a good dude, first of all. (He’s got) a great family, (he’s a) great representative of our University, and now our country. To be represented by that kid, that’s a lot of good things happening. If a guy leaves the program for all the right reasons, awesome. Whether it’s endorsements or all the other things that go along with that, is what is right and what is best, great. Our plan right now is to go win a gold medal.”
Royce Freeman, Oregon’s star running back, has little doubt that Allen will do just that.
“I’m excited for him, especially after his injury it’s well-deserved,” he said at Media Days. “He worked hard to accomplish that, and I really couldn’t think of anybody more deserving than that guy after his injury.”