Most players who aren't drafted as high as they hoped, or not at all, will use it as motivation to begin their NFL careers. Jaguars linebacker Russell Allen is not among them; instead, he put the draft snub behind him and focused on making an impact in his first season.
The former San Diego State standout was one of only three rookies to play in all 16 games for the Jaguars, and he made five starts. He finished with 58 tackles, three tackles for loss and ranked third on the team with 14 special teams tackles.
With his first season complete, Allen is looking forward to a little rest after going non-stop from his senior season of college through the Combine to training camp. He plans to return to San Diego where he will get married in March.
I sat down with Allen to talk about last year's draft and being thrust into a starting role as a rookie.
Looking back at the draft now, are you upset that you weren't selected?
The way I look at it is the draft is behind me and I'm just happy to be in the NFL. I was given the opportunity to keep playing football and that's all I can hope for.
Did you have any idea prior to the draft where you would be drafted?
I went into draft weekend not having a clue of what was going to happen. I had heard everything from third, fourth or fifth round to not drafted at all. I knew I wasn't going to go on the first day.
Did you watch the draft?
I watched it all. My agent and I were charting and keeping track of everybody's picks. We had it numbered one through 32 and what our selections would be if I wasn't drafted. We were prepared for it, but we also thought I had a pretty good chance of getting drafted. As the draft went on and my name didn't get called, I started to figure out that there was a pretty good chance that wasn't going to happen. I actually started to get a few calls during the seventh round with teams saying they may pick me. Nobody did. We were prepared and we had our list of teams.
It was said after the draft that you were one of the first guys the Jaguars targeted in free agency. Did you talk to them right away?
Teams can't offer you anything until the draft is over, but the Jaguars called during the draft and basically said if they didn't have a pick for me they would like to work something out after the draft. I kind of knew they would be interested and they were number one on my list before the draft started. I came out here and interviewed and felt really good about the situation. I was hoping to be drafted but I knew this was a place I could come in and have a chance to play.
Why were the Jaguars at the top of your list?
First and foremost, Thom Kaumeyer (Jaguars defensive backs coach). He recruited me out of high school and I have known him since I was 17 years old. That was the initial interest. I talked to him a couple of times throughout the process and I think he probably had something to do with setting up my interview. When I got here I had the chance to meet Coach (Jack) Del Rio, Gene Smith and Coach (Mark) Duffner. I really felt comfortable and felt like it was a place I would have a chance to be successful.
Had you ever been to Florida prior to your visit with the Jaguars?
No. I came out here twice, an interview with the Jaguars and I interviewed with Miami. Those are the only times I had been out here.
What were the last four weeks of the season like for you, knowing you were going to start?
It helps a lot to give me at least a week to prepare, knowing you are going to be on the field and the team is counting on you. It helps a lot. This has been a great experience for me. I feel like every week I'm getting more comfortable with the game plan and just being out there, being able to get in a groove a little bit.
Take me back to your first NFL start against Seattle in week five. You had only played two snaps on defense before that game. Pretty nerve-wracking experience?
Definitely. I had no idea what to expect. I didn't even know I was going to start until Saturday afternoon. I didn't know what it was going to be like in there. I went out there and just kind of played. Just getting that first one under your belt, you get more comfortable. Every week it continues to slow down and I know it will for a while.
You never missed a game in four seasons at San Diego State. You get to the NFL and you joined Terrance Knighton and Derek Cox as the only rookies to play in all 16 games for the Jaguars. Is that something you take pride in?
I have been fortunate. Freak things can happen to anybody. You get hurt in this game. I try to take really good care of my body and work hard. There is definitely an element of being fortunate.
Rashean Mathis was talking last week about rookies playing the longest season of their lives right now. Is the body starting to feel it?
You definitely need some time to recover. If you think about it, you go from training camp my senior year of college straight into training for the Combine, into minicamp, OTAs and then training camp is here. It's been really like a year straight. We have had no offseason coming into this rookie year.
A lot of guys talk about how they watch other players around the NFL at their position. Have you started doing the same?
Definitely. We turn on the tape and we watch our opponent, but I'm watching how other backers are playing against them. Just seeing what they do well and what they can do better, just trying to learn.
How would you describe your style as a linebacker?
I'm definitely not a big bruising linebacker and I don't know if I ever will be. That's not really my style. I just try to take a little bit from everybody. At this point, everybody here has more experience than me. I try to look at all of them and take a little here and a little there that I like that they do.
You definitely are not the vocal type of the field. Have you always been a quiet guy?
I don't know if I would use the word quiet. I'm here to work and get the job done. I'm still getting to know guys, too. More than quiet, I think it just takes me a little time to get to know guys a little bit more.