When it comes to being clutch, there's nothing like an FCS product impressing scouts at his Pro Day.
They haven't received four straight years of hype or national TV exposure, they weren't on the radar coming out of high school, and most of them didn't get a sniff from the NFL Combine, while more than 300 FBS players did. So the Pro Day is one prime chance to get in front of dozens of evaluators. There is zero room for mistake making.
Chase Allen knows that feeling. He's been present at Pro Days before, rooting on past Southern Illinois teammates who were making their pitch to scouts. In March, he took his turn — he traveled to Northwestern University, a Power Five school gracious enough to allow small school products to ply their trade along with the Wildcats. Allen did not disappoint. The inside linebacker prospect ran a blazing 4.58-second time in the 40-yard dash, and an uber-quick 6.88 in the 3-cone drill. Combine that with 23 reps of benching 225 pounds and an official 6-foot-4, 241-pound measured frame — along with his production during his SIU career — and you have yourself one excellent prospect.
At the NFL Combine, only two linebackers — inside or outside — matched or beat Allen's 40 time, and only four matched or beat his cone drill time.
"It's out of my hands now after the Pro Day," Allen told HERO Sports this week. "Now I just plan to stay in shape for rookie mini-camp, wherever that is. I'm just going to control what I can control at this point."
As it turns out, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Miami Dolphins have certainly noticed Allen and are in frequent contact, and Bucs' linebacker coach Mark Duffner has already had a one-on-one workout with him. A trip to Miami is also coming soon. The speed and the size combination, coupled with zero character issues, makes him a prime candidate for a job in the NFL. His 324 career tackles also prove he can make an opponent pay, and he has proven he can make plays against FBS schools. He had a season-high 11 tackles and 1 TFL against Florida Atlantic last year, 7 tackles against Indiana as a junior, 10 tackles against Purdue as a sophomore, and two tackles for loss as a backup against Illinois in his first college game back in 2013.
Plus, he's played against "FCS to the NFL" fixtures like Carson Wentz, Jimmy Garoppolo, David Johnson … you name it, Allen can hang with them.
"I learned that throughout my career," Allen said. "When I was a freshman and I played my first game against U of I, and we ended up losing by just a few points, every year since then I've looked at games against the bigger schools as just another game on the schedule … I've always had the dream of playing in the NFL. It just took that first start (at SIU) and I wanted to become that impact player."
When past SIU teammates like MyCole Pruitt (5th round draft pick, 2015) and Adam Fuehne (Detroit Lions free agent pickup in 2016) and others went through this process, Allen was watching and asking questions. Now he's setting the example. His experience at the NFLPA Bowl, where he said he was literally treated like an NFL Player from sun-up to sundown — with all of the expectations — was another experience that helped him prep for what's next. His training with well-known trainer Pete Bommarito in Davie, Fla. is another strong point — it set up what happened at the Pro Day.
And if the NFL team that chooses him wants him to make plays on special teams? No problem — he's been the MVFC Special Teams Player of the Week before, and he knows how to block kicks. He said he's prepared to do whatever needed to get that roster spot — a common theme for FCS standouts: They're used to having having to hang in there by a toe nail sometimes. Former SIU linebacker Bart Scott could sympathize — he went the free agent route in 2002 and ended up being a Pro Bowler with a 10-year career.
"I'd love to end up anywhere, honestly," said Allen, who grew up rooting for the hometown St. Louis Rams (he's from nearby Belleville, Ill.). "If it's in Florida, that would be great. It was great training down there (in Davie)."
Time will tell. Whether he's a day three draft pickup or a priority free agent, Allen will have an NFL home a month from today — that much is certain.