On the second day of practices for the East-West Shrine Game it was already clear that Purdue defensive back Ricardo Allen is ready to make a move.
His coverage in one-on-one drills is solid and the former Daytona Beach Mainland product is moving well. He's hoping his effort this week, including today during the Shrine Game at Triopicana Field (4 p.m., NFL Network) will be enough to gain the attention of the legion of NFL scouts on hand this week.
“It’s pretty competitive out here,” Allen said. “Everyone is talented. I think I’ve had a good week with my pass defense and getting to the football and reading the plays. I’ve also been working a lot on special teams and really doing whatever it takes.”
Allen had the option of leaving Purdue last year but decided to return for his senior season and says it was the best thing he could have done.
“Well six interceptions and two forced fumbles later it was definitely the right decision,” Allen added. “I had a lot of injuries bothering me as a junior and I don’t think I finished a single game. There was a lot for me to prove and I wanted the opportunity to showcase what I could do game in and out.”
Allen left Purdue with the school record for most interceptions returned for a touchdown (four) and he is the No. 2 on the Boilermakers career list for interceptions with 13. He said that in spite of the team’s struggles over the past two seasons he learned a lot about himself.
“Regardless of the team we played or the score, I wanted to go out there and compete until the final whistle,” Allen said. “When things aren’t going well it’s easy to give up, but that’s really when you need to work the hardest.”
He also said his introduction to Big Ten football was eye-opening. As much as he heard about ‘Florida speed’ there was plenty of speed and strength in the conference.
“People talk like the Big 10 is slow and, no, they aren’t slow,” Allen said. “Northwestern plays fast. Wisconsin even has those fast skill players from Florida. Ohio State under Urban Meyer is a very fast team. And they are all strong. You learn pretty quickly about the differences between high school and the college game.”
Such lessons should prove to be valuable in Allen’s final preparations today's game. He is looking for an invite to next month’s NFL Combine and realizes that he’ll need to be at his best to make that happen.
He also understands that his future in football won’t start with him guarding the opposition’s top receiver like he did at Purdue.
“I’m going to have to come into a camp and make things happen on special teams first,” Allen said. “Because of my size [5-foot-9, 186 pounds] most teams are looking at me to play inside but before I can even do that I have to be strong on special teams so I can make a roster. Then I can prove my abilities as a defensive back.
“On Saturday I’ll probably play both the inside and outside and play a lot of special teams. I’m just thankful for the opportunity and looking forward to it.”
Corey Long is a freelance writer who is based in St. Petersburg.Copyright © 2015, CT Now