Richard Allen’s corner is a busy place, and he would have it no other way.
Never mind that there are those who would do him harm, or those who would like nothing better than to embarrass him; Tulane’s senior nickelback wants every bit of action that comes his way. Especially with his career dwindling away. And especially after seeing the last two seasons cut short by injury.
Ask him if he’s making up for lost time, and he doesn’t hesitate to reply.
“I think,” he said, “I’m making up a lot.”
That was never truer than it was in a game-on-the-line situation against Louisiana-Lafayette last Saturday, a thriller that extended to four overtimes.
The host Green Wave assumed a 41-33 lead in the final extra period on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Glen Cuielette to Terren Encalade, and subsequent two-point conversion. But the Ragin’ Cajuns answered with Anthony Jennings’ 22-yard scoring strike to Elijah McGuire, and lined up to go for two.
Tulane’s defensive coaches knew what was coming, Allen said – knew, specifically, that ULL was going to line up with three receivers to Jennings’ left. The two outside guys were going to run slants over the middle, and the inside guy – Al Riles, who was Allen’s responsibility – was going to veer toward the sideline, gather in Jennings’ short pass and try to beat Allen to the left pylon.
The Cajuns did in fact line up in that trips-left formation, but then called timeout. Afterward they attempted to disguise their intentions by putting one receiver to the right, then bringing him in motion to the opposite side.
They still ran the same play, however. And Allen was equal to the challenge, tackling Riles two yards short of the goal line to preserve Tulane’s 41-39 victory.
“The game was crazy,” Allen said. “At the same time the game was fun.”
And as great a toll as it might have taken on everyone – Allen said his body didn’t fully recover until Thursday – it’s worth repeating that he doesn’t mind the extra work, having been limited to five games in 2015 after suffering a concussion, and seven the year before because of a bad ankle.
“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “Normally you’re having fun. You’re out there playing with your friends, the people that you’re with, the whole year ‘round. The season actually goes by fast.”
Not so for injured players, who are consigned to a tedious regimen. Their days are taken up by treatment. They are reduced to observers in practice, and are left behind when the team goes on the road.
“You have to stay on campus and it gets boring,” Allen said. “I hated that.”
Now, he’s right in the thick of the action, just as he prefers. He starts for the Green Wave (2-2), which visits Massachusetts (1-3) Saturday on ASN, since Tulane lines up with five defensive backs on nearly every play. The 5-9, 175-pound Allen plays almost exclusively in the slot, meaning that if he’s not defending the run – he has 12 tackles to date — he is often tracking receivers through rush-hour traffic over the middle.
He also plays on three special teams, and his recovery of a fumbled punt in the third quarter of last Saturday’s marathon led to a field goal.
Allen remains as buoyant as he is busy, despite playing a position that often seems so thankless.
“Cornerback’s fun,” he said. “Corner all around is great. The hardest part about it is, when we mess up, that’s when everybody notices, but the better part of it is just that competition and that challenge to not mess up.”
Truth is, he loves challenges of all sorts. Growing up in Metairie, La., just five miles from Tulane’s New Orleans-based campus, his parents pushed him to take care of business in the classroom, and that has extended to the present. He majors in cell and molecular biology and is on schedule to graduate next May, with an eye, perhaps, on becoming a physical therapist or athletic trainer someday.
But for now he’s savoring every snap, hopeful that he can finally play a full season.
“I wish (the injuries) wouldn’t have happened those past two years, but it’s just a part of football,” he said. “You have to bounce back and recover, and try to stay healthy during the season. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Among other things, for he needs action, needs his corner to be a busy place.