Westborough’s Allen aims to follow in father’s footsteps
It crossed Taylor Allen's mind that he was going down the same road his father had many years ago.
Dan Allen played linebacker at tiny Hanover College in Indiana. He was not drafted, but he did earn an invitation to the rookie camp of the Atlanta Falcons. He didn't make the team, but it was an experience he never forgot.
Taylor Allen has finished his gridiron career at Endicott College, a Division 3 program in Beverly that is barely a decade old. But if you can play, the NFL will find you, even if you live in a cave, which is why the undrafted Allen spent four days in Florida last week at the Jacksonville Jaguars' rookie minicamp.
He is hoping to open some eyes and receive a contract offer, if not with the Jags then with another professional football team.
“I know my dad would be proud of me,’’ said the 22-year-old Allen, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end and long snapper.
His father, the head coach at Boston University and then at Holy Cross, died in 2004 of multiple chemical sensitivity at age 48. He passed away at his Westborough home with his wife, Laura, and three children at his bedside.
Much of what Taylor Allen learned about life and football came from his father, who coached his youth baseball teams.
“I was more into baseball growing up,” Allen said.
When he played for the Westborough Red Devils in the youth football program, Allen said, “I stopped playing after a year. I didn't like the sport.’’
It was not until high school that he realized “football was in my blood.’’ Now he hopes to make it a career.
Now Allen hopes to make it a career.
His four-day stint at Everbank Stadium in Jacksonville was “awesome, a great experience,” he said. There were roughly 50 rookies.
In the first team meeting, he met Justin Blackmon, an All-America receiver from Oklahoma State who was the fifth pick in the entire draft. “It was amazing,’’ Allen said. “I was humbled.’’
“It was amazing,’’ Allen said. “I was humbled.’’
The Jags called Allen the day before the draft. “They wanted to know if any other team was interested in drafting me,” he said.
There had been no contact.
But an hour after the draft, a familiar voice was on the line: Mark Duffner, the Jags’ linebackers coach, who had Dan Allen on his Holy Cross staff in the 1980s. He asked Taylor whether he was interested in attending the rookie minicamp.
Taylor could not get to the airport fast enough.
His best bet to make the team is as a long snapper.
When Endicott head coach J.B. Wells received a call from the Jaguars regarding standout defensive end Kevin Eagan, he seized the moment to talk up Allen as well.
“I said I don't know if he can play tight end, but I know he's an NFL-quality long snapper,” Wells said.
Both Eagan, who signed as a free agent with the Indianapolis Colts, and Allen had tested well at Boston College's pro day.
“That was my biggest opportunity up to that time,’’ Allen said.
The Jaguar rookies received playbooks upon arrival, and were expected to know the majority of plays the following day.
“The tight ends were asked to do more than anyone, except the quarterback,’’ said Allen, who hauled in a school-record 15 touchdown receptions for Endicott. “We had to shift on almost every play. Every rep was an opportunity.’’
Allen opened a few eyes at long snapper. “The punters and kickers said they liked the tempo and speed of my snaps,” he said. “Anything could change before training camp, but I know this is not the end of the road.”
He first delivered a long snap at age 12, while waiting for his father after a Holy Cross game. He went under the Fitton Field stands and gave it a try with an assistant coach.
His first big moment came as a Westborough High sophomore in a game at Marlborough's Kelleher Field. There was a lot of pressure: just seconds left in the game and a successful field goal would win it for the Rangers. “It was a huge play for me,’’ Allen said. Good snap, good hold, good kick. Westborough walked off with the win. “I was tall, gawky, and skinny back then,’’ Allen said.
“It was a huge play for me,’’ Allen said. Good snap, good hold, good kick. Westborough walked off with the win. “I was tall, gawky, and skinny back then,’’ he said.
“He was a phenomenal long snapper,’’ said Westborough High coach Mark Ellis. “He could really fire it back. You knew the snap was going to be there. That's one less thing the coach had to worry about. Taylor was a fun-loving guy, but he enjoyed working hard. He's one of the guys you love having around. He knows the game. I hope he makes it’’ with the Jaguars, Ellis said. “He has the body for it, that's for sure.’’
Allen’s older brother, 28-year-old Mark, was a standout wide receiver for Westborough.
“I think he still holds a couple of records,’’ said Taylor, who scored just one touchdown in high school, during a game against Milford. “I was streaking down the left sideline. It was about a 60-yard play. I ran right past Mark, who was on the sideline.’’
A few New England colleges showed interest in Allen in his senior year. “I was in cooking class, and there was an announcement for me to go to the front office because a Northeastern coach was there to see me.’’
His classmates applauded.
“But New Hampshire was my number one choice,” he said. “They showed a lot of interest. I wanted to be a Wildcat so bad. But my mother said not to put all my eggs in one basket. I didn't listen to her. But she was right.’’
A change on the coaching staff at UNH washed away his road to Durham.
It all worked out. “Endicott was the best fit for me,’’ he said.
The 22-year-old Allen is engaged to Becca Goss, 28. They have a 13-month-old son, Taylor Jr. She has two daughters, 8 and 6, from a previous marriage.
Allen will work out all summer. If it doesn't work in the NFL, he will coach as an assistant at Algonquin Regional High, Westborough’s archrival. Mark Allen is the Tomahawks’ defensive coordinator.
Thoughts of his father are constantly with Taylor Allen. The grace and courage he showed during his illness still resonates with the son.
“He coached my travel basketball team even when he got sick,” Taylor said. “That taught me about mental toughness.’’
He has run with it ever since.
Lenny Megliola can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.