Damon Allen - Quarterback - Cal State Fullerton - Ottawa 1989-91
`It wouldn't be the same if I came into this stadium and the Southsiders (Rough Riders fans) weren't saying anything,'' Allen said. ``And, if they don't say (Hobart) tomorrow, I'll know something is wrong with them.''
B.C. (4-5) has won three straight, including a thriller last week against Montreal. It was the Alouettes' first loss this year and featured sensational performances from Lions quarterback Damon Allen and CFL offensive player-of-the-week Alfred Jackson, a receiver. Ottawa (2-7-0-1) needs a win to stay in playoff contention.
The Riders signed Allen as a free agent two days after the 1988
season ended. His image was slapped on a poster with those of kicker Dean Dorsey and running back Orville Lee in a marketing campaign, "Rider Rage'' designed by then general manager Jo-Anne Polak. Ottawa had suffered five consecutive losing seasons and a revolving door at quarterback provided little optimism. Then Allen arrived with new head coach Steve Goldman.
Allen had come off the bench to lead the Edmonton Eskimos to a comeback victory against the Toronto Argonauts in the 1987 Grey Cup. He was, effectively, a starter who had the misfortune of playing behind Matt Dunigan for three seasons and Tracy Ham for one.
Ottawa started 0-9 in `89 and the new regime was under heat. In the 13th game, Allen tore ligaments in his thumb, but he asked to be put back into the game late after his backup, Willie Gillus, was also injured. With no other quarterback on the sidelines, defensive back Steve Howlett, now a Renegades assistant, had been forced in at quarterback. Polak, who was being taunted in the press box while Howlett took the snaps from centre, said the incident was humiliating until Allen stepped up, risking his career to save face for the franchise.
``It was the lowest point of the three years I was there, from a football standpoint,'' Polak said Thursday. ``And, because of that, I'll always be a huge Damon Allen fan.''
With two games remaining in the season, Hobart, coming off a three-year sabbatical, was under centre for an injured Allen.
Hobart netted as many victories - two - as Allen had, and he wasn't being paid $180,000. The season finale, a win over Winnipeg, capped a 4-14 season and gave birth to the fans' love affair with Hobart (pictured left). Goldman didn't want Hobart back in 1990, but fan and media opinion prevailed.
``He told me he brought me in only for the two games, but that the media was on his back,'' Hobart said from his home in Idaho.
Allen was again the starter, but Hobart would often begin to warm up on the sidelines behind the bench - without Goldman's permission. Polak and Allen say it was to intentionally rile up the Southsiders, but Hobart claims he was just trying to ``stay loose.'' Either way, chants of ``Hobarrrt'' would rain down every time.
``I didn't do anything to egg the fans on. They were just hungry to win,'' Hobart said. ``Goldman would always glare at me every time it happened. It was pretty uncomfortable.''
With Allen injured for a game at Calgary, Hobart played and Allen could be seen on the sidelines, relishing his backup's struggles. Polak was furious and confronted Allen after the game. That's when he told her about Hobart's sideline antics.
``I was pretty pissed off and then I started hearing the real side of the story,'' Polak said. ``I remember Damon being stabbed in the back by Ken Hobart.''
In 1991, Allen rushed for a career-high 1,036 yards and threw a career-worst 31 interceptions. He left the Riders for Hamilton following the season after leading Ottawa to two playoff appearances (both losses) in three years.
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