Top things to know about 110m hurdles star Devon Allen

The athletics star and new Philadelphia Eagles signing is looking to pull the curtain down on his track career with a world record and a World Championships medal in Oregon on 17 July, before turning his attention to the NFL.

By Evelyn Watta
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

Devon Allen is fast. Very fast.

The Team USA athlete is incredibly quick on track, and his sprint speed on the American football field ranks him among the fastest there is in the game.

On Sunday 12 June, the newly-signed Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver stunned the world by running the third-fastest 110m hurdles time in history. His 12.84 seconds was just four-hundredths of a second off Aries Merritt’s ten-year-old world record of 12.80 set all the way back in September 2012.

Now Allen is a favourite to win the USA track and field outdoor championships title on 23 June as he eyes his first major career medal at what could be his final World Athletics Championships in Oregon.

Here are the top things to know about the 27-year-old who plans to kickstart his NFL career after the track and field Worlds

Devon Allen of The United States of America wins the Men's 110m Hurdles Final during the Weltklasse Zurich, part of the Wanda Diamond League at Stadium Letzigrund on September 09, 2021 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)
Picture by GETTY IMAGES

One of Allen’s main targets is the world record

Combining track and football training seems to have helped Allen to achieve his top hurdling speeds. And while his time at the New York Grand Prix puts him among the very best to have ever run the 110m hurdles, Allen didn't seem surprised by his accomplishment.

“I thought I could break the record today,” he told NBC Sports Philadelphia. "Clean up a few things, and four-hundredths of a second is four-thousandths of a second per hurdle, which is so small. Going to have to wait for another race.”

Standing alongside him in New York was Olympic silver medallist Grant Holloway, who came home second in the race. It made the victory even more poignant as Holloway is the only other man to come close to Merritt’s world record with his 12.81 run at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2021.

Even more impressive is the fact that Allen had sat out of training for 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19 and only had about a week to prepare for the race.

“I think COVID is not good because your body is trying to recover, but it was good for me to get off my feet for seven to 10 days and not do anything," he said. "It worked out. I feel good and now I can start getting ready for USAs and Worlds.”

This week’s outdoor championships at the fast Hayward Field Track offer him another chance to attempt to lower Merrit’s mark.

He will also be hoping to emulate the first man to break 13 seconds - former 110m world record holder Renaldo Nehemiah, who despite never having played football signed with the San Francisco 49ers as a wide receiver.

Former 110m hurdle world record holder Renaldo Nehemiah jups a hurdles during an event in 1987.

The 110m hurdle star wants to "have a global medal"

At this stage of his career, Allen is something on a veteran on the athletics circuit - but he's only getting better. Now 27 years old, the rapid hurdler has already been to two Olympic Games and two world championships.

At Tokyo 2020 he finished just outside the podium in fourth place behind gold medallist Omar Mcleod after crossing the line in fifth at Rio 2016. His best result at the World Championships is the seventh place he achieved in Doha in 2019, and he has never won a major individual title.

But this season, all that looks like it could change, as the 2021 Diamond League champion aims for the World Athletics Championships 110m hurdles final on 17 July.

“I’d like to have a global medal by now, especially with how fast I’ve run and how consistently I’ve been running fast for the last eight years,” Devon Allen to World Athletics.

A football star in waiting for the Philadelphia Eagles

While Allen looks to be just reaching his peak, the 2022 Worlds may be the last time you catch him clearing hurdles in a major competition.

On 26 July, the multi-talented athlete will report for training with the Philadelphia Eagles at the NovaCare Complex as he seeks to make the roster for next season.

But if you thought juggling football and track would be hard, Allen seems to thrive on the challenge.

“The training is similar. Football has a lot more mental aspect, film study and knowing the playbook,” he said on the Takeoff with John Clark podcast.

“I trained to be as explosive and strong as possible on the track which is what I have been doing with football… accelerating full speed, full speed.”

Prior to the Eagles, Allen played football at Oregon and returned to take part in Oregon’s Pro Day on 1 April. It was at this event that he caught the eye of the NFL team, who offered him a three-year contract after witnessing him clock 4.35 seconds in the 40 yards (36.5m) dash.

“It was always part of the plan,” he continued on the podcast.

“I have a good opportunity to play some good football and help them play them win football games. I know it’s been a while since I played football, since 2016, but hopefully, it’s going to be like riding a bike.”

A severe knee injury delayed his return to football

Allen was highly rated as a freshman at the University of Oregon and was a four-star recruit from high school. Playing as a wide receiver in 23 games between 2014-2016, he totalled 54 catches for 919 yards and eight touchdowns.

But in 2016 while in his third season, disaster struck as he suffered a major knee injury that put his sporting career in jeopardy.

Remarkably, Allen overcame the injury, going on to become one of the best hurdlers in history. However, despite reaching the peak of his track career, he feels that now is the perfect moment to return to the football field.

"It's now or never because I don't want to get too old," he told reporters at Oregon's Pro Day. "I don't want to turn 30, 31, and then try and get into the NFL.

“When I suffered a knee injury right after the Olympics, I thought I should focus on track and going to the next Olympics, and after that cycle, I said I was going to give myself a chance to play.”

As if two sports weren't enough, Allen is also a budding golfer

When the Phoenix native isn't shuffling between the hurdles or accelerating on the football field, you can find him on the golf course. And from his social media posts, you can tell he feels the sport has had a huge impact on the way he lives.

As he said in a tongue-in-cheek post on Twitter: “Golf changed my life. Instead of gaming for 8 hours a day after training, I now play golf for 4 hours then game for 4 hours.”

Still, in choosing golf as a way to wind down, Allen joins an illustrious list of Olympians who like nothing more than a day out on the range, including PyeongChang 2018 ice hockey gold medallist Amanda Kessel, Olympic Alpine skiing gold medallist Bode Miller, double Olympic skeet shooting gold medallist Vincent Hancock and 23-time Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps.

The two-time Olympian is dating a fellow Olympian

When you're as fast as Allen, it helps to have someone who can keep up with you. Thankfully for him, he has another Olympian, Morgan Mitchell, by his side.

Mitchell, who is also 27, competed for Australia at the Rio Olympics and Tokyo 2020 Games, finishing seventh in the 4x400m relay in Brazil and reaching the 400m semis at the same Games.

More recently, she turned her attention to the longer 800m distance, finishing sixth in her heat at Tokyo 2020.

The two have been reportedly dating since 2019 and are open about their relationship. And it seems from Allen's Twitter post below that he has high hopes for his partner, as she aims to dip under the two-minute mark and reach the hallowed ground of 1 minute 55 seconds that saw the USA's Athing Mu crowned Olympic champion at Tokyo 2020.

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