Then & Now: Whitworth’s Michael Allan
Football games on television continue to haunt former Whitworth University great Michael Allan.
The worst comes when he sees players he tested against in the 2007 NFL scouting combine or those he later shared locker rooms with on the rosters of the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks.
That white-hot competitive fire tells Allan’s mind that his body can still do things as well or better than they can.
“I miss it every day. I just turned 30 in September,” said Allan, who played 2008 for the Chiefs and was signed briefly onto the Seahawks roster in 2010. “I was kind of toying with the idea of the 30th birthday comeback tour.”
If he did, Allan would also probably be the only active professional player already in a hall of fame. Whitworth University inducted him into its Heritage Gallery Hall of Fame on Oct. 5 before the game with Pacific (Ore.) game.
“I knew it was an honor … but it didn’t hit me until I got there,” he said. “To get up in front of everybody … it was totally surreal.”
Allan still holds the Whitworth records for most touchdown receptions in a season (15 in 2005), career touchdown catches (29) and career yards per catch (18.7).
His talent allowed him to creep right up to the biggest stage. And then, like a pulled rug, it was again out of reach. And for the longest time, he just couldn’t enjoy college or NFL games on television.
“It was hard to watch, especially the pro game … because I felt I was deserving of being out there,” Allan said. “For a while, even today, I still think about it. How fun would it be to put on the pads and see what I got? It’s probably one of those things that will not go away.”
Allan, who now lives in Issaquah and manages the Gold’s Gym in Redmond, admits that getting married in February 2011 forced him to refocus his goals.
“I also considered going overseas just to play, not for money, but for a chance for my wife and I to travel and just play some ball,” he said. “But once I got married, I had some changes about what I thought was priority. I had to think, ‘What’s better for us.’”
That Mount Rainier-sized chip on his shoulder came early.
Allan had designs of playing at Notre Dame, or some other football powerhouse that plays every Saturday for a chance at a national championship. Instead, the 6-foot-4, 190-something pound wide receiver, who ran plays mostly out of the Wing-T formation at Interlake High School in Bellevue, got letters from Linfield, Pacific Lutheran and Whitworth.
“It’s tough for a high-school senior that you weren’t getting recruited. It was a tough time trying to decide what to do,” he said. “But as soon as I got to (Whitworth’s) campus, it felt right. I had a chance to go out and play football and not worry about politics and everything else.”
But even as a Pirate, coaches again knocked Allan down a few notches when they asked him to sit out the first year.
“To me, that was totally humbling. I was thinking that I was a hot shot and now I have to redshirt? But, it gave me a chance to grow and understand the process,” he said.
Allan even considered quitting football and attending another school after head coach John Tully and receivers coach Jason Tobeck asked Allan to switch positions to tight end.
“I stuck it out, and obviously, it worked out,” Allan said.
He blames most of that transformation on the support he received at Whitworth.
“You can get lost in a big Division 1 program. You are forgotten about as soon as you are done playing or get hurt,” he said. “Even though I wasn’t playing my first year, I was embraced by the staff and the community.
“We had study session at my professors’ houses with wives and husbands cooking dinner. It let you know that they cared about your well being,” he said. “You get to mature as a player, but more so as a young man. I know I wouldn’t have got that anywhere else.”
That support continues to this day.
“Those guys changed my life: John Tully, Jason Tobeck, that whole staff. There are countless professors that I can call to this day,” he said. “They took you under your wing and actually invested time into your life. I’m totally grateful and so thankful for those guys.”
As a redshirt freshman in 2003, Allan played in most the games on special teams but never caught a pass.
In 2004, he caught 29 passes for 409 yards and scored five touchdowns as the Pirates went 7-2.
Then in 2005, Allan was named to the AFCA Division III All-America team after he caught 36 passes for 693 yards and 15 touchdowns in only eight games. Allan broke the old touchdown receptions record that was set in 1975 by Doug Long, who played three seasons for the Seahawks, said sports information director Steve Flegel.
In 2006, Allan caught a team-leading 53 passes for 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns as a team captain. He helped lead Whitworth to its first ever 10-win season, with the Pirates finishing 11-1 after losing in the second round of the Division III playoffs.
Then Allan became the only Division III player invited among 330 attendees to the 2007 NFL scouting combine.
He measured at 6-foot-63/4 254-pounds and they timed him at 4.7 at the 40-yard dash. Allan said he later ran a 4.55 for the Seahawks during a tryout in 2010. “So, that’s what I go with,” he said with a laugh.
But Allan also won the broad jump at the combine for tight ends. He also had better than a 36-inch vertical leap and he completed 19 reps in the 225-pound bench press, he said.
He was drafted in the 7th round, (231st overall) by the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I just assumed that because I was coming from a small school that I wouldn’t be taken seriously,” Allan said. “But when I got to Kansas City … everybody knew that everybody had the same shot. They knew they guy next to him was just as deserving. There was a mutual respect. It didn’t matter what school you came from.”
Although Allan signed with Kansas City, he never caught a pass during a regular season game. He was let go during the final round of cuts just before the 2008 season.
In 2009, he played a couple games with the California Redwoods of the now defunct United Football League before a chance encounter at his church introduced Allan to a Seahawks front-office employee who worked with player personnel.
After a conversation about his situation, Allan was invited in for a workout where he was timed at the 4.55 in the 40-yard dash.
“I went from a personal trainer in a gym to being signed by the Seahawks,” he said.
But Allan was signed during the off season as the sixth tight end on the roster. He was cut before training camp. “I didn’t really have time to prove myself,” he said.
Despite that yearning to play, Alan said he’s working to solidify his future. He’s hoping that by working as an operations manager that he can attain the organizational skills needed as he plots his return to the sport that consumes him.
“I did a little coaching. I dabbled in broadcasting. I’m trying to keep my options open for staying near the game,” he said. “One goal of mine would be to open a performance center for young athletes.”
He got the idea from just before the draft. Before the 2007 combine, Allan’s agent paid for him to travel to New Jersey to get specific training on those physical skills NFL scouts were seeking.
“It would be a place where athletes can come work on their speed and get that one-on-one attention and focus on the exact things they will need to work on,” he said. “I know it will be helpful.”
In the meantime, football games on TV will continue to remind him of what could have been.
“This was the first year I was able to watch and enjoy it,” Allan said. “It’s back to where it’s enjoyable again.”