Oregon wide receiver and Olympic hurdler Devon Allen is turning professional in track and field and doesn’t expect to return to football until after the 2020 Tokyo Games.
“That will give me the best opportunity to accomplish what I want to accomplish in the future, and that is winning a gold medal and holding the world record in the 110m hurdles,” Allen said Wednesday.
Allen, a 21-year-old junior, said his decision was more the result of finishing fifth in the Olympics — lower than he hoped, but motivating — than suffering a second torn ACL playing football on Sept. 17.
Allen had previously torn an ACL in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2015, and came back faster to win the Olympic Trials 110m hurdles on July 9 in a personal-best time.
“I was kind of balancing between going professional or not after the Olympic Trials [in July],” Allen said. “I ran in the Olympics, kind of was a little disappointed with my finish. So I was like, you know, maybe I’ll just play this football season out since I didn’t win a gold medal, and see how that goes. I think, either way, I would have turned professional pretty soon.”
Allen expects to return to track training in January and repeated Wednesday that he’s eyeing a return at the U.S. Championships in Sacramento from June 22-25.
“My ideal scenario is to run track for the next couple years, and then 2020 Olympics, win a gold medal, have the world record, put that to the side and try to play football,” Allen said. “My mind changes a lot, too. So you never know. Next year, I might not want to do track anymore. But I think, for right now, I want to focus on track for the next three to four years.”
One of Allen’s goals is very realistic — the Olympic gold medal. He finished 2016 ranked No. 2 in the world in the 110m hurdles behind Olympic champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica.
The world record would require a hefty improvement. Allen’s personal best is 13.03 seconds. The world record is 12.80.
Allen is optimistic he will continue to speed up. He was the only man in the Rio 110m hurdles final who had never previously competed internationally.
“If I had spent my full time focusing on track, like a lot of the other guys do, I think it gives me a better opportunity to perform well on that kind of stage,” Allen said. “I think that will give me the best opportunity to win a gold medal.”
Allen also said he wanted to move into other events, the 100m, 200m, 400m hurdles and maybe even the decathlon.
Allen tore his left ACL and MCL and suffered meniscus damage in a non-contact injury defending a punt return in a game Sept. 17.
It’s the same injury he suffered on the opening kickoff of the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2015, just to the opposite knee. Allen returned from that injury to play in 12 of 13 games for the Ducks in the 2015 season.Follow @nzaccardi