Damon Allen (bottom right) as a freshman at Cal State Fullerton 1980.
It would not be far fetched for a fan of Canadian Football to declare the top quarterback in league history as Damon Allen. Certainly the statistics support that claim. Similarly Mike Pringle could certainly be counted as arguably the greatest running back in league history. How about the exploits of Allen Pitts as the greatest receiver in CFL history; there are statistics to support all of these claims.
How about the fact that each of these CFL legends came through the same college football program in California in the 1980s? As remarkable as that sounds it is true. Cal State Fullerton a school that suspended it's football program in 1992 is the alma mater of Allen, Pringle and Pitts. The Cal State Fullerton Titans experienced surprising success with their program relative to the size of the school in the 1980s and the Canadian Football League and its fans have definitely benefited from that program.
Under coach Gene Murphey the Titans captured two conference championships and four runner-up finishes between 1983-89-when each of Allen, Pringle and Pitts spent time with the team.
Graduated Cal State Fullerton in 1984.
Allen set seven single season records in his senior year with the Titans and was named a 1st team Pacific Coast Athletic Association All-Star in 1984.
Damon led the team to two PCAA championships and broke a 26-year old NCAA record with only 3 interceptions in over 300 attempts. He finished 16th in Heisman Trophy voting in 1984 along with anchoring the pitching staff for the Cal-State baseball team. Damon joined the Edmonton Eskimos in 1985 following the path of Warren Moon and the rest is football history.
excerpted from Damon Allen on the brink of becoming top passer in pro football history By Dan Ralph Canadian Press September 1, 2006
He continued playing quarterback in high school and led his team to two league championships, yet inadvertently caught the eye of the football staff at California State University, Fullerton.
"When we saw Damon on film, we were looking at someone else and I asked, 'Who the heck is this kid?"' said Gene Murphy, the former head coach at Cal State Fullerton. "We were going to return the film and I told them to get down there to see that quarterback and said if he was even close to five-foot-10 to offer him a scholarship.
"They called me back and told me he was close to six foot but they didn't tell me he only weighed something like 130 pounds. But he's no kid anymore, he's a big-time man."
Allen led Cal State Fullerton to a pair of Big West Conference titles (1983-'84) after first tutoring under quarterbacks coach Steve Mariucci (pictured above top right) (1980-'82), who went on to be an NFL head coach with San Francisco and Detroit. Mariucci says he will be in Hamilton on Monday to watch Allen make football history.
"I'll bet he didn't weigh more than 139 pounds when he got to college but he was a heck of a thrower," Mariucci said. "You wouldn't think that with the slender physique that he had and I'm being polite - he was a skinny bugger - he could really throw it."
In 1984, Allen finished 16th in voting for the Heisman Trophy behind eventual CFL star Doug Flutie, who was then at Boston College. Allen attended the Senior Bowl, U.S. college football's showcase all-star game, and completed 6-of-8 passes for 50 yards and a touchdown while adding 20 yards rushing on three carries.
But Allen was bypassed in the NFL draft and looked to Canada to embark on a pro career in 1985. Like Moon, Allen signed as a free agent with Edmonton and in 1987 replaced an injured Matt Dunigan to lead the Eskimos to a thrilling 38-36 Grey Cup win over Toronto, earning the first of his three game MVP honours.
Allen was more than just a star quarterback in university. He also was a solid pitcher, posting a 3-2 record and 3.60 earned-run average in 19 appearances (six starts) in '84 when Cal State Fullerton captured the College World Series. He was a seventh-round draft pick that year of the World Series-champion Detroit Tigers, but decided to remain in school.
"The Tigers were trying to sign him furiously, they were on our campus day in and day out and I had the scout, an old son of a buck, escorted off the campus by a policeman," Murphy said with a chuckle. "In the major leagues, you have to sign (a baseball contract) before the first day of class, after which you can't sign.
"So the first day of class comes and Damon is at school and is going to play football. So I took a Tigers cap and burned it on the grounds. But the last thing that scout said to me was this: 'What a disservice you're doing to that young man. Look at him. Do you think he'll last playing football?' Who would've known that 26 years later he would be in this situation?
"You can never measure what's inside a person, their heart and their soul. I've coached for 43 years but you talk about competitive desire. I mean, Damon walks into a huddle and people know they can do it. He's kind of laid back and doesn't say a lot, but boy, does he compete. He has that inner drive."
Allen has gone on to break Warren Moon's career pro football passing yardage record with over 70,000 yards passing and counting.
Graduated Cal-State Fullerton in 1989
Drafted into the NFL in 1990 Atlanta Falcons 6th round 139 overall
Pringle started his college career at Washington State. He transferred to Cal-State Fullerton for a better opportunity to carry the ball.
In 1989 Pringle had the 4th most all-purpose yards in NCAA football history with 2,690 while with Cal-State Fullerton leading the nation. As a senior Mike rushed for 1,727 yards. Pringle set a NCAA record since eclipsed in 1989 with 626 yards gained in consecutive games.
In 1990, the Atlanta Falcons drafted Pringle in the sixth round, but he saw limited duty. In 1991, he was the last player cut by Atlanta. After splitting his next year between the Edmonton Eskimos and the World League champion Sacramento Surge, Pringle signed with the expansion Sacramento Gold Miners in 1993.
Pringle played with Sacramento, Baltimore, Montreal and Edmonton he retired after the 2004 season as the all-time leading rusher with 16,424 yards. Pringle also holds the league record for rushing yards in a season with 2,065 in 1998 with Montreal He is the only back in league history to eclipse 2,000 yards in a season.
Allen Pitts had a solid career at Cal-State Fullerton. He left the football program in 1986 and had a failed try-out with the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL in 1986 and '87. Roy Shivers Player Personnel Director for the Calgary Stampeders at the time convinced Allen to come to Canada in May of 1990 and he enjoyed extraordinary success over 10+ seasons.
In 1994 he enjoyed the single greatest season for a receiver in league history with 2,036 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns. When he retired in 2000 Pitts held the league record for receiving yards with 14,891.
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