Before Russell Allen ever took a snap at San Diego State, and thus long before he knew a chance to play in the NFL was realistic, the linebacker from Vista High had a vision of how he would conduct himself as a pro football player should he become so fortunate.
He wanted to follow the example of Donnie Edwards, a Chula Vista High alum who played his 14th NFL season last fall for the Kansas City Chiefs but is now an unrestricted free agent.
Allen’s idea was formed at the 2004 Alex Spanos High School All-Star Classic, an annual summer game sponsored by the Chargers that matches the San Diego County’s top graduated seniors.
Edwards, then playing the third of his five seasons for the Chargers, was the honorary captain for the all-star game, but he made more than a cursory appearance at the kickoff. He stayed the whole game and spent time on the sidelines of both the North and South all-stars.
When he got to the North side in the second half, he liked what he saw from Allen, the 2003 All-CIF Player of the Year. He pulled Allen aside as the defense came off the field and showed him some linebacker techniques.
“That was a great experience for me,” Allen said. “He’s a personable guy, and it made me feel good that an NFL player stuck around that long and talked to me and other players.”
At one point Edwards and Allen were squared off chest to chest as Edwards, his hands up, explained shedding blockers and angles to the ball to make tackles.
“He was trying to coach me up, and that experience stuck with me,”
Allen said. “I told myself if I was ever in that position to have the opportunity to help kids, I wanted to treat people the same way.”
Allen may get his chance. He’s projected as a sixth- or seventh-round draft pick when the NFL Draft takes place Saturday with the first two rounds and Sunday with the final five rounds.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder, an honorable mention on the All-Mountain West Conference team as a junior and senior, might even end up with the Chargers.
The Bolts were one of the teams that spend the most time with him when they invited him to Chargers Park for workouts and interviews. Other teams that flew him in were the Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Since Allen played both inside and outside during his 48 games and 43 starts for San Diego State, his versatility means 3-4 teams have said they see him as an inside linebacker and 4-3 teams as an outside linebacker.
“Whether I’m drafted or a free agent, I just want a chance to keep playing football,” Allen said. “I feel good about my chances one way or another.”