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Monday, October 21, 2019

Football

Years after playing for the Cougars, Kyle Allen returned to Houston


Former Cougar quarterback Kyle Allen returned to Houston on Sunday night as the Carolina Panthers' starter, years after he last played for UH. | File photo

Former Cougar quarterback Kyle Allen returned to Houston on Sunday night as the Carolina Panthers’ starter, years after he last played for UH. | File photo

To say Kyle Allen’s journey through football has been complicated is an understatement.

From being benched in college to not being selected in the NFL draft, the former Cougar quarterback’s path through the sport has been long, winding and uncertain.

Recently, the course brought him back to a familiar city, one he played in before transferring to UH in 2016 and where he spent the last two years of college with the Cougars before moving going pro — Houston.

In a twist of fate, Allen, now starting under center for the Carolina Panthers, returned to the city Sunday afternoon to take on the Texans, his team’s AFC South rival, at NRG Stadium.

But to understand the unconventional route Allen has taken to be one of only 32 who can call themselves an NFL starting quarterback, one must go back to his hometown Scottsdale, Arizona.

From Arizona to Texas

Born and raised in Scottsdale, Allen attended high school in Arizona’s seventh-largest city at Desert Mountain High School.

There, the then-teenage Allen tossed for over 8,200 yards and 86 touchdowns for the Wolves, catching the eyes of scouts nationwide in the process.

The result? Allen became a five-star recruit and the No. 1 ranked quarterback in the country.

Enter Texas A&M, who handed Allen a scholarship that he committed to in early June 2013, a year before his high school graduation.

After a brief, midseason quarterback battle with then-sophomore Kenny Hill in 2014, Allen found himself starting for the Aggies, leading Texas A&M to a win over then-No. 3 Auburn, a spot back in the top-25 and a bowl win.

With Hill transferred, Allen retained the starting spot in 2015. His first game, the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff against Arizona State, saw the then-sophomore shine en route to the 38-17 win.

Under Allen, the Aggies rolled to a 5-0 start, but troubled loomed with his young backup picking up speed.

Bye-bye, Aggies

Following Texas A&M’s 41-21 loss to Alabama, which saw Allen throw three interceptions and was sacked five times, an 18-year-old Kyler Murray, not quite yet the Heisman Trophy winner he became at Oklahoma in 2018, was named starter.

By December, Allen announced his transfer.

Houston scooped him up in January 2016, thanks in part to former UH head coach Tom Herman’s recruitment of Allen to Texas A&M two years prior.

After sitting out a year, per NCAA transfer rules, Allen made his debut for the Cougars, in another ironic twist, against Arizona.

In a game played under unexpected circumstances after Herman’s departure for the Texas job and Major Applewhite’s ascension to the Houston throne, Allen performed well.

The then-junior threw for 225 yards and a touchdown in the 19-16 win.

Allen started in the first three games for the Cougars, including a 38-3 win over Rice in which he broke Houston’s single-game completion percentage record at 93.9.

But similarly to how his time with the Aggies ended, Allen’s tenure with the Cougars came crashing down after an improving backup.

Then-senior quarterback Kyle Postma won the starting job, and Allen saw the field only twice more in 2017.

Allen forewent his final season of eligibility and entered the NFL draft.

Undrafted to starter

In a quarterback class that included the likes of Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold and 12 others, NFL.com ranked Allen No. 16.

One offensive coordinator told reporter Tom Pelissero he’d be shocked if Allen was drafted, saying, “Someone will sign him as a (priority free agent) to see if they can give him a shot.”

That’s exactly what happened.

The Panthers, after every NFL team went seven rounds without selecting the quarterback, signed Allen as an undrafted free agent in late April.

This is where it gets crazy.

On Sept. 1, 2018, he was waived but signed to Carolina’s practice. Nine days later, he was cut.

Allen found himself back on the practice squad in late October of that year, and after starter Cam Newton was shut down for the rest of the season in December, he made the active roster.

Fast forward to a year later, when Allen, who moved up to backup, was named the Panthers’ starter after Newton was sidelined with a foot injury.

In his second career start, the 23-year-old diced through the Arizona Cardinals defense, finishing the game with 261 yards and four touchdowns passing in the 38-20 win.

The next game, however, took him back to his Texas A&M and Houston days.

Back in Houston

Against the Texans, Allen overcame three fumbles and three sacks to lead the Panthers to a 16-10 win.

Completing 24 of 34 passes, Allen passed for 232 yards, beating out Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson’s 160.

It was not his first trip to NRG Stadium.

His first time around, the blowout win over ASU, Allen averaged 7.6 yards per completion in a 198-yard and two-touchdown passing performance.

At the height of his college career, Allen was slinging for the Aggies in this city. At his lowest, he would be benched here with the Cougars.

Little did he know, years later he would be back, under much different circumstances, in Houston.

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