Gameday: World-class athlete Devon Allen shaped by family values

Originally Posted on Emerald Media via UWIRE

When Devon Allen visits home, sports aren’t the focus of his downtime. Visiting family is a rarity for the sophomore two-sport athlete during a busy calendar year, so he makes an effort to keep things simple and grounded when given the chance.

Believe it or not, the U.S. 110 meter hurdle champion and star wide receiver for the Oregon football team still takes time to take out the trash, clean the dishes and occasionally cook a family meal at home without being told.

“They (parents) did a great job raising me and my sister,” Devon said. “Just gave us some things to hold dear to our heart and pass onto our children in the future.”

This is the type of household Devon was raised in and it’s one of the biggest factors as to why he’s molded into the world-class athlete he is today.

Few athletes in the world can rival Devon’s success at the collegiate level. Devon is the leading receiver for the Ducks with 377 receiving yards, six touchdowns, and with all team-highs through their first five games.

As a track and field athlete, he carries the title of top U.S. and collegiate 110 meter hurdler as an underclassman, and his indoor time is the second fastest in NCAA history (13.16), the school and meet record.

“It’s very impressive,” former Oregon multi-sport athlete Jordan Kent said. “When you see people doing two sports, they don’t excel nearly at the high level Devon has been.”

A humble beginning

Devon and his twin sister Carissa were born seven hours apart and two months premature at Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, Washington on Dec. 12, 1994. And while both siblings would mold into future college athletes – Carissa plays volleyball at Phoenix College – Louis and Joey Allen had their natural concerns as parents early on.

After they were born, the two had to stay in the hospital for about a month due to breathing issues.
Just a few years later though, Devon played football for the first time around the age of four when a neighborhood friend – who was 10 — asked him to come out and play. Keep in mind, this was roughly three years after Devon took his first steps.

Naturally, Devon’s parents were concerned about his size and age, but his dad, Louis, decided to let him go.
When Devon was around the same age, Louis saw his son at his first football jamboree with the very kids that had first asked him to play.

At this game, where Devon played on a local team called the Renton Rangers in South Seattle, Louis saw Devon score his first touchdown on a 60-yard run after his quarterback had fumbled.

“To see those things, I was like ‘oh man,’ he’s really something special,” Louis said. “Sometimes we have our parent goggles on and think our kids can do everything, but I’m just speaking the truth.”

Louis, a former minor league baseball player in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, realized the talents hidden beneath his son’s youthful exterior and began introducing him to any sport he could.

“We said that we would only let him do two at a time, but he’s tried everything,” Louis said. “He’s tried karate, boxing, basketball, lacrosse, baseball, football, just about anything.”

Upholding family standards

What separated Devon from other top-tier athletes was his work ethic and wisdom. Being humble amid hardship also had a lot to do with his success. The best athletes have short-term memory and it is no different for Devon.

“We as a family – Carissa, Devon and Louis – have gone through some difficult periods in the last six, seven years with my employment, other issues and my children have seen through my example that I never quit, never gave up,” Louis said. “It’s pretty much second nature to them now – they just have that drive, have that passion.”

Sometimes an athlete is inherently born with attributes that help them excel. For Devon, it was a blessing being raised by traditional parents.

“His parents have done a fantastic job,” Brophy Prep High School track coach Tim O’Neil, who coached Devon said. “Real high value placed on high morals and integrity, doing things right.”

Even after their parents separated in 2000, Devon and Carissa held their heads high, something that has helped them in the long-term.

“When I couldn’t find a job, food, the lights turned off, gas shut off, me having to ask for welfare, selling almost everything I owned, Devon and Carissa never once complained,” Louis said. “This is why I feel truly blessed.”

Balancing life under the limelight

Balancing the workload that comes along with being a two-sport athlete, especially a good one, requires an unthinkable amount of discipline, but Devon has learned to embrace it.

“I’ve never been around a more well-conditioned athlete,” wide receiver coach Matt Lubick said. “Part of it I’m sure is genetics and natural, but a big part of that, is he made himself that way through his practice habits. He’s wise beyond his years.”

A social life and free time aren’t things Devon is accustomed to, but it’s simply the type of sacrifices that he has consciously made to set up a bright future.

“I never got into the whole partying scene in college, in high school,” Devon said. “Never started drinking, never started smoking and a lot of people think in college that that’s weird, but I have a lot of friends and people that admire that in me.”

It’s not over yet

As Devon embarks on the rest of his college career, there will be no regrets. Deciding to come to Oregon over schools like Stanford may have been difficult at the time, but it has been these types of gut-feeling-inspired decisions that have helped Devon succeed at the highest level.

“Regardless of what the future holds for him, he won’t regret doing two sports down the road,” Kent said. “He’ll just talk about the incredible memories, the friendships, the teammates that you bonded with during that time. You can’t put a price tag on that.”

What initially attracted Devon to Oregon was the collective support between track coach Robert Johnson and former football coach Chip Kelly for him to play both sports.

Now, that Devon has proven his leadership qualities in both areas, the two can pat themselves on the back for providing such a supportive environment.

“It’s unique here,” Lubick said about Oregon athletics. “There was a success of that already in place and he (Devon) knew it wasn’t just words getting preached to him.”

Eyes on the gold

Devon’s aspirations are nothing short of playing the NFL or running for Team USA and he will surely be targeting those leagues until it comes into fruition.

“If Devon believes that he can accomplish something, he’ll do everything he possibly can to accomplish it,” Louis said. “That’s why when I hear Devon talking about running under a 13 flat in 110 hurdles, talks about playing in the NFL, running in the Olympics, I believe he’ll do it.”

For Devon, the future isn’t guaranteed, but he is headed in the right direction. Hard work and strong family support have gotten Devon to this point in life and it will be a formula for success moving forward.

Devon may be the talk of campus these days, but he is still nowhere near where he wants to be.

“A lot of world-class athletes are the same,” O’Neil said. “He’s humble, he’s likeable and epitomizes what our athletes should be, not what some of our athletes are unfortunately.”

Follow Hayden Kim on Twitter @HayDayKim

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