Former San Diego State standout Russell Allen won’t play football again due to stroke

Posted: 04/22/2014 in college football, football
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Last November, I marveled over the fact that Heath Farwell was still playing for an NFL team.

At one time, Farwell was viewed as the fourth-best linebacker on a San Diego State squad that had other linebackers like Matt McCoy and Kirk Morrison eventually get drafted in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft.

Yet Farwell, an undrafted free agent, was the only member of the Aztecs’ defense that ranked eighth nationally in total defense in 2003 to still be playing the game a decade later. Even has a Super Bowl ring to show off now as a member of the Seattle Seahawks.

The following week I was assigned a Jacksonville Jaguars preview and I noticed middle linebacker Paul Posluszny had suffered a concussion and might not play that Sunday. The player in line to start in his place was Russell Allen, another player I covered on the San Diego State beat.

I stopped for a second and thought about how unlikely it was that Allen was in his fifth NFL season. He had been a fine college player but the scouts who evaluate players for a living all found faults – centering on either Allen not being quick enough to play in the NFL or not big enough to play in the league.

Or both.

Having covered college and professional football for 16 consecutive seasons, I understood immediately why Allen had found his way into the NFL.

I covered him as a freshman and sophomore at San Diego State and he was the ultimate gamer. The dude truly loved the sport and he wanted to excel. The Aztecs were a horrible team in those days and he would be giving his all, even when the team was being embarrassed by an awful New Mexico squad.

The guy had heart, his motor never stopped and he flat-out loved football. Those type of guys – like Farwell – always have a chance at overcoming the odds.

Allen went undrafted in the 2009 NFL Draft but former San Diego State defensive coordinator Thom Kaumeyer had latched on as an assistant coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Allen signed as an undrafted free agent and then made the squad and there he was still on the Jacksonville roster in 2013.

I noticed Allen was reported to have suffered a concussion in mid-December and that he was surprisingly cut earlier this month. That pretty much signaled that his head injury must have been pretty severe.

But the news that broke Thursday was pretty stunning. Allen’s headaches were not due to a concussion.

It was determined two days after the injury that he had suffered a stroke when he had a head-to-head collision with Buffalo Bills center Eric Wood during the mid-December game.

Let that sink in – a stroke.

Allen told his story to a national website and revealed that doctors found a dead spot on the cerebellum in his brain. He will never play football again, is still struggling with normal every-day functions that the cerebellum dictates and will be on blood-thinning medicine the rest of his life.

Football – as a player – is over for him at age 27.

That’s the thing about football. No matter what type of odds a player overcomes or how big of a star one becomes or how much money someone makes, it can all end on any given snap.

Some people suffer career-ending knee injuries, several players have been paralyzed and way too many people suffer head injuries that wreck their quality of life during their post-retirement days. And now we hear of a player having his career end due to a stroke.

Not everybody gets to pick how they leave the brutal game of football.

Oh yeah, that final game in which Allen banged heads with Wood and began experiencing double vision during the game? He finished out the contest.

That doesn’t surprise me in the least having covered the guy for a few years in San Diego.


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