23-year-old running back Jermaine Allen has done a lot of traveling during his relatively short professional football career. A former player for the London Olympians and a standout earlier this year for the World Bowl champion Hamburg Sea Devels, Allen now finds himself lining up in the midst of corn fields in rural Kankakee County.
"Aside from some residual jet lag, I'm not at all disoriented," Allen said after a Tuesday night practice in Bears training camp. "It's been such a fast transition for me that it hasn't even begun to register in my brain yet."
And although the cosmopolitan native of London seems to be adjusting well, he still feels that there is a definite learning curve ahead.
"All of the teams I've been associated with have slightly different approaches to the game," Allen said. "It's a matter of learning and understanding the terminology and the overall game plans. I have two teammates from the London Olympians who are also with other NFL teams right now. I suspect we're all going through the same thing as far as getting acclimated."
It's a transition made somewhat easier by the NFL's International Development Program, which places European players on various practice squads for U.S.-based teams.
"The people I was working with in Hamburg had grown up with American football, as had the coaches, so the change isn't an enormous one from the way the game is played in Europe to the way the NFL handles things here," Allen said.
"The only problem, and it's a slight one, is not understanding what all of the players or coaches are saying,” Allen continued. "I am accustomed to a British accent when people speak to me. But I'm learning how to handle this quickly."
As far as his diet in concerned, Allen sees little difference.
"I was on a training diet for the Olympians and for the Sun Devils as well," he said. "What the Bears are serving is similar, so there's really no culture shock there."
As the NFLE's leading rusher and one of the league's top TD producers, it would seem that Allen's skills will translate well into his new surroundings.
"Being a productive player in NFLE and winning the World Bowl is something that I'll be able to build on," Allen said. "I think that gives me somewhat of an edge, having had that kind of an experience already. Getting a touchdown in that game and winning over the highly-favored Frankfurt Galaxy squad was very satisfying and an experience I'd like to repeat here."
In his youth, Allen was never a fan of British "football," or soccer as Americans call that game, and preferred instead to follow NFL teams.
"I never really had a favorite team," he said. "I just got whatever news I could from the NFL and tried to learn from that."
What Allen found appealing about American football was the speed of the game and the various techniques involved.
"I always felt my particular athletic abilities were best suited to your kind of football," Allen said. "Where soccer relies primarily on ball-handling skills with the feet, American football has more emphasis on catching and speed once the reception is completed. Those are two things I have always excelled at."
Allen's ultimate goal is to line up as a starter somewhere in the NFL.
"This is my opportunity to learn as much as I can and to be noticed while I am in the States," he said. "Hopefully, this will advance my career considerably."
In Allen's more immediate future is his first trip to Chicago, scheduled for this weekend.
"I'm looking forward to seeing the city," he said. "It's been so busy since I arrived in the States that I haven't had the opportunity to stop and look around. Hopefully, this weekend before or after practice there will be at least a little time to get a first look at my new home."
|Beth Gorr has been covering the Chicago Bears for the last seven years and is the Author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.