Eric Allen - Wingback - 1972-75 - Michigan State
Rob Malich - Toronto Argonauts website - 1996
In the early 1970's, the Argonauts employed an individual who was a head coach, an entertainer and a master recruiter. His name was Leo Cahill, and he had this uncanny habit of convincing some of the best players in U.S. college football to come north to play for the Double Blue. One of the players to come under his spell was an explosive record-breaking running back from Michigan State: Eric Allen. Like other big names coming out at the time, such as Joe Theismann, Tim Anderson and Jim Stillwagon, Allen was drafted by an NFL team (Baltimore Colts) and a bidding war ensued.
"It would have been a tough choice had Baltimore been a little more forthcoming," said Allen, who in 1971 set NCAA records in rushing yards in a game (350) and all-purpose yards (397), as well as being named the Big Ten's Most Valuable Player. "Toronto made me an early offer, and when (Baltimore) came back later, I paid no attention because I had given my word to Leo Cahill."
Allen's impact in his rookie year of 1972 was immediate. Although a running back in college, Allen's versatility, and the fact a big-name player in Leon McQuay already held that position with the Argos, meant he was switched to wide receiver, where he promptly caught 53 passes for 1067 yards and was the Argo nominee for the Schenley Most Outstanding Player award. His 20.1 yard per catch average also signified his speed and elusiveness, attributes for which he was nicknamed "The Flea".
"They called me that because I was fleet of foot, but I never saw myself run until I got to university and saw some films," said Allen, who was otherwise known as "Bobby" in his hometown of Georgetown, South Carolina, because his running style reminded locals of former Cleveland Browns great Bobby Mitchell.
While Allen continued to be productive with the Argos for a few more years, injuries slowed him down and he was eventually released in 1976. At that time, he decided to give the Colts another shot, but the experience made him very bitter.
"Baltimore was the most racist regime I had ever seen," said Allen. "The way they treated black athlets was outrageous."
With his football career over, Allen wisely decided to continue his education, earning an urban planning degree from Michigan State and a subsequent Masters in community economic development from Manchester College in New Hampshire. Allen spent 15 years as a community organizer in Connecticut before returning to Toronto in 1989.
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