RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Almost 7,000 miles away from the Olympic Stadium, the Oregon Ducks have started football practice with an eye on the season-opening game.
On Monday night, the Ducks will break for a "team meeting" to turn their attention to Rio de Janeiro and watch wide receiver Devon Allen make his Olympic debut. Allen will run in the opening heats of the 110-meter hurdles, a berth he earned by winning the Olympic Trials in front of his college community at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, last month.
So confident Allen was going to be Rio-bound, he celebrated by leaping into the crowd and posing for selfies — a move he planned the night before the trials.
"I asked some friends what should I do for my celebration? They were like, 'You should jump into the stands where we are sitting,'" Allen said. "They were sitting where my parents were sitting, so I scoped it out the day before to see how big the gap was. It was like a three-inch gap, so I knew I could make it. I would have jumped into the stands if I made third, but I was going in expecting to win."
Allen is confident he'll deliver again in Rio.
"I'm really just going out there to win a gold medal," Allen said. "My goal is to win every heat."
His confidence soaring, Allen has got the next few weeks mapped out: Win a gold medal in Rio, return to Eugene on Aug. 23, regroup and then rejoin the Ducks. Maybe even in time for the Sept. 21 season-opener.
He's not positive that's doable because he's been so focused on track, he'll need time to transition back into football once he returns to Oregon.
"If I miss the first game, it's not the end of the world," Allen said. "A week of football practice may not be enough. I want to really feel into it before I return."
That this two-sport ride is even happening at all is quite the comeback tale. Allen had a breakout freshman season for Oregon in 2014 with 41 catches and seven touchdowns, only to tear his anterior cruciate ligament in the Rose Bowl.
The recovery time was lengthy, but Allen's ticket to Rio made it complete.
This is the time of his life, and the three-time NCAA champion in hurdles has the resume to show how far he's come: Allen is the first collegian to win the 110-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials since Renaldo Nehemiah of Maryland in 1980, the first to win both NCAA and trials titles in the same year since Lee Calhoun of N.C. Central in 1956, and his .18 margin of victory was the largest ever at the trials.
Next up? A gold medal, of course, and this 21-year-old Phoenix native believes in himself and the goals he sets.
He learned early at Oregon how to juggle two sports, academics and "my social life as a kid," and came back from an injury that could have forced others to scale back to one discipline.
But Allen has eyes on competing in both sports as long as possible. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds right now, and talks about getting it down to 4.2 for the NFL scouting combine.
With a gold medal around his neck, he believes he can talk any potential NFL teams into also allowing him to continue his track career. Allen could also go pro in track after the Rio Olympics.
"As long as I don't sign a shoe endorsement, because the endorsement covers my likeness as an athlete and the NCAA owns my likeness as an athlete for my time in college," he said. "I can compete in all the meets I want to professionally and win prize money and still play football.
"I just don't know if I'd compete wearing an Oregon uniform or a T-shirt."
He knows an argument can be made to transition into football only after the Olympics, but Allen doesn't see a need.
"American football is definitely more lucrative for great athletes," he said. "There's a lot of football players I've been around who would be great track athletes, but they choose a different path. If I was born in Europe, I'd probably be a soccer player because that's the popular sport there.
"A lot of U.S. athletes who are explosive and fast end up playing football because that's the most popular sport and it's a sport where people can see their future, make some money in and live. Right now, I'm considering doing both."
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