John Denton's Knights Insider: Emery Allen Eager to Return

Aug. 13, 2010

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The pain in his toes too much to take and his 2009 season done, real and raw tears streamed down the face of UCF cornerback Emery Allen last fall. For the first time in his life, football had been taken away from him and left a big void in his life.

So after finding out that he would need surgery to repair torn ligaments in his big and second toes and would be red-shirted, Allen went off by himself and let his emotions pour out. The prospect of being away from football was just that powerful for the senior cornerback from Milton in the Florida panhandle.

``When I got hurt and was out I talked to my mother (Mary) and I just had to cry out,'' Allen said. I prayed to God a lot that I would get another opportunity to get back on the field. That's the first time ever I was without football and it was hard.

``Being away from my teammates and not being able to contribute was extremely frustrating,'' Allen continued. ``Being off the field I felt out of place like I was a fan or something. It didn't feel right.''

Back atop the depth chart as UCF's starting cornerback and arguably its best cover corner feels so right to Allen. The 5-foot-9, 183-pound says that he is nearly 100 percent recovered from the April surgery that repaired the shredded ligaments connecting two of his toes.

Not that he had a choice but to go through the surgery if he ever expected to don the Black and Gold for the Knights again. He originally hoped his April 1 surgery was ``an April Fool's Day joke,'' but it proved to be one that saved his playing career.

``The doctor said they had to get in there and if they didn't I probably wouldn't have been able to use my foot again the same way again,'' Allen recalled. ``You don't know how much you need the toes until they don't work.''

It didn't take long last season for Allen to realize that feet that once made him one of the fastest players on the UCF squad weren't working correctly. He originally damaged his toes two springs ago, but tried to play through the pain last season. But when coaches decided to shelve him for the season, Allen was without football for the first time in his life.

In many ways, he feels this is what he was meant to do. His father, Greg, was a talented running back at Florida State. And he was a star on both sides of the ball as an all-state player in Milton.

So not being on the field last season as UCF won eight games and qualified for the third bowl game in school history hit Allen especially hard. It has made him appreciate his senior season now even more, he said.

``I could tell something was wrong because when I run my big toe would flop around. I tried to run anyway, but then I would just hop off the field,'' he recalled. ``I just tried to keep my head up so that I could help out the other guys.''

UCF is hoping that Allen can return to the form of 2008 when he had 18 tackles, two sacks and a pass break-up. In the 2007 season-opener against NC State, he was dominant with seven tackles and a pass break-up. And as a true freshman, he was a starter in two games and he saved a victory against Memphis with a pass break-up on fourth down.

UCF head coach George O'Leary said that Allen is back to being among UCF's speediest players. And still he is among the strongest pound-for-pound players on the team with a 325-pound bench press and a 480-pound squat max. O'Leary wants Allen to concentrate more on his technique and less on gambling in hopes of making big plays.

``He's running a lot better,'' O'Leary said. ``There are four corners right now (Justin Boddie, Josh Robinson, A.J. Bouye and Allen) that I have no problem getting out there and getting them time and Allen's one of them. He's back to where he was, but sometimes I think he relaxes a little too much and takes chances.''

Allen described his mentality as ``a little bit hesitant'' right now because of he is still recovering from his toe injury. But one thing he is fully certain about is that UCF should again have one of Conference USA's best defenses and the Knights are poised for a ``special'' season.

``The pieces are there for us to be real good and we just have to keep pushing and striving to be the best defense in the conference. I feel like we can do that,'' he said. ``I feel like that effort is there and we all have the same goals. We come out to work every day and we want to win this year. We feel like we have one of our most talented teams and it's just a matter of putting it all together now.''


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John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.