For most athletes, competing in the olympics is an unattainable dream — something to stay awake and think about at night, all the while knowing it’s highly unlikely if not straight up impossible.
For a select few, competing in the olympics is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s the dream turned into a reality, only made possible because of endless work and sacrifice. Hitting the genetic lottery helps a bit as well.
For as much as we love football in the United State — pigskin, not FIFA mind you — it has been rather interesting to follow the story of Devon Allen. He’s an Oregon football player and track athlete, representing the United States down in Rio for the 2016 Olympics.
He competed in the 110-meter hurdles and represented the country, and Oregon, well –finishing 5th in the finals of the event. This has all happened while the Oregon football team completes some of the most important practices leading up to the kickoff of the 2016-17 season, though (gasp).
The Ducks start the season on Sept. 3 against UC Davis. The closing ceremony in Rio is on Aug. 21.
Do the math, and that gives Allen 13 days to prepare for the season opener for Oregon, and that’s assuming he gets right back at it for the Ducks on the 22nd. That’s 13 days (probably less) to get back into the swing of things with pads and a helmet instead of shorts and hurdles.
That’s 13 days (probably less) to get back into the rhythm of football and the rhythm of Oregon’s offense — an offense that relies on tempo and rhythm, keep in mind.
That’s 13 days (probably less) to get situated and comfortable with whomever ends up being Oregon’s starting quarterback come Week 1.
And that’s okay.
While the easy #HotSportsTake would be to say that Allen has hurt Oregon football by pursuing his Olympic dreams instead of fall football camp, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The easy #HotSportsTake would be to say that he’ll be out of rhythm or perhaps he’ll lose a step this season because he spent all his energy — and his legs — preparing and running in Rio.
Heaven forbid he gets hurt, because the takes would then be even hotter. Second guessers would come out of the woodwork and the football machine would shake its head at the runner who “jeopardized” his football career for the chance to run and win a medal.
It’s easy to hit the hot take button, but it’s not reality in this case.
The reality is that Allen, and Oregon, will be just fine.
Keep in mind, he’s not a redshirt freshman going into his first year in Oregon’s system. Allen is heading into his junior season and has had decent success, outside of injury, so far. He caught 41 receptions for 684 yards and seven touchdowns in 2014, with a long reception of 80 yards.
He suffered a torn ACL in the Ducks’ CFP Rose Bowl game against Florida State and didn’t fully come back to form in 2015. Still, Allen managed to notch nine receptions for 94 yards in just six games.
Stats are fine and all, but the biggest thing to keep in mind here is that Allen is a speed guy for Oregon (yes, that’s proper football terminology), and that’s the one thing you can’t teach as a coach and you don’t necessarily “work” on speed in fall camp.
Speed can be tweaked, but it’s something you either have or you don’t have as a football player — and without a doubt, Allen has it, plus plenty of athleticism.
May Allen be a bit rusty in Week 1? Sure, it’s possible.
But then again, Oregon doesn’t need him to be at 100-percent against UC Davis and the Ducks may not even need him to be on his game come the Week 2 matchup against UVa.
Allen will have plenty of time to get back into the swing of things for the Ducks, and he has a chance to have a big year for an Oregon team looking to get back to that elite level the nation has come to expect.
The best part about it all? He’ll be doing it all with the experience of competing for a gold medal under his belt. That’s something a whole lifetime of fall practices can’t replace.