Football

Damon Allen retires as CFL player

Quarterback Damon Allen did the expected Wednesday, ending his Canadian Football League playing career after 23 seasons, 72,381 passing yards and another 11,914 along the ground.

Quarterback Damon Allen did the expected Wednesday, ending his Canadian Football League playing career after 23 seasons.

The 44-year-old walks away having amassed 72,381 passing yards and another 11,914 along the ground, both CFL records for a quarterback.

"The game of football has given me every emotion a person can feel. It has been a dream ride," said Allen, second in Toronto Argonauts history in career passing yards (13,974), career attempts (1,713), completions (1,051) and career passing TDs (77).

"I have given football my mind, body and soul. When it is all said and done, I have met some incredible people. I want to thank the fans across the Canadian Football League for supporting me, the players in the CFL for challenging me to be the best and the incredible coaches in our league that continue to teach the game."

Allen is expected to remain with the Argos but not join the coaching staff.

He spent much of an injury-plagued 2007 season on the bench after rupturing tendons in his toe, while Michael Bishop emerged as the Toronto Argonauts' starting signal-caller.

A four-time Grey Cup champion, Allen slipped further down the quarterback depth chart in March when the Argos acquired reigning CFL outstanding player Kerry Joseph from the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Veteran Rocky Butler is also expected to compete for a roster spot at training camp, which opens this week.

Running for the money

Allen is one of just three quarterbacks in league history to run for 1,000 yards and pass for 4,000 yards in a single season (Tracy Ham, Joseph) — an achievement he reached in 1991 with the Ottawa Rough Riders.

He also holds the following regular-season records:

  • Passing touchdowns — 394.
  • Pass attempts — 9,138.
  • Pass completions — 5,158.
  • Longest pass completion — 109 yards.

"As a quarterback in the CFL, you always try to model your game after Damon Allen," former CFL quarterback Danny McManus, who retired on April 2, 2007, with 53,255 career passing yards, told CBCSports.ca. "Every quarterback coming into this league looks to see who has the records, and you're going to see Damon Allen at the top of everything.

"But I think more than that, it's what he does off the field that [makes] him a CFL legend. He does a lot for the community, a lot that goes unheard. He's a guy that I'm more than happy to call a good friend."

McManus added he was surprised Allen chose to hang up the cleats because he believes the six-foot, 190-pounder can still play.

"I don't doubt that Damon has the ability to play the game right now at a high level and I don't doubt he has the desire to play," said McManus, who often trained with Allen in the off-season. "It's just a matter of would he be able to find a [roster] spot [with Toronto or another CFL team]. Sometimes that's tough."

The California native's most productive season came in 2005 when he completed 352 of 549 passes for a career-high 5,082 yards and 33 touchdowns. He later became one of only five Argos to be named the CFL's outstanding player.

"Empirical evidence overwhelmingly confirms that Damon is the most prolific player in pro football history," said Argonauts chief executive officer Michael (Pinball) Clemons. "To run for almost 12,000 yards makes him one of the best rushers ever, to pass for a world record 72,381 yards makes him arguably the best passer.

"To do both and win four championships makes him iconic."

Added CFL commissioner Mark Cohon: "For more than two decades, Damon Allen has been a leader, a champion and an ambassador for our league. Even more impressive than the many records he holds are the memories and inspirations he has left with our fans from across the country."

Breaks in with Eskimos

Allen entered the CFL as a free agent with Edmonton in 1985 and also spent time with Hamilton, Memphis and B.C., where he spent seven seasons before the Lions dealt him to Toronto in 2003.

Allen guided the Argos to a 27-19 Grey Cup victory the following season at Ottawa's Frank Clair Stadium and was named the game MVP.

In the annual Labour Day Classic on Sept. 4, 2006, he surpassed Warren Moon's record of 70,553 career passing yards in a 40-6 victory over the hometown Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The historic completion was a shovel pass to Arland Bruce III, who took the ball 29 yards.

"He's got so many milestones, so many achievements that it would be unfair to pick one," said McManus, who will be a guest coach at this year's Tiger-Cats training camp. "I look at what he does as a human being, and promoting the CFL and helping out as many people along the way."

Allen was a two-sport star at Cal State Fullerton. He led the Titans football team to a pair of Pacific Coast Athletic Association titles but was also a pitcher on the school's baseball team that captured the '84 College World Series. Allen was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in '84, the same year the major-league baseball club won the World Series.

He never signed with Detroit and instead went to Edmonton in '85. In 1987, Allen replaced injured starter Matt Dunigan in the Grey Cup and captured his first MVP award after leading the Eskimos to victory.

He won his second Grey Cup with Edmonton in 1993 before returning to baseball in '94, signing a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He reported to spring training that year, but left to resume his CFL career with the Eskimos. Allen also won a Grey Cup with the Lions in 2000.

With files from the Canadian Press

now