And as unfathomable as it might sound, Allen's rookie-of-the-year season almost never materialized.
Allen was drafted by the Chargers in the third round in 2013. A projected first-rounder as his college career wound down, Allen's stock fell after he suffered a knee injury late in his senior season at Cal. Over his first few months in San Diego, the coaching staff limited his reps to make sure he was fully recovered from the knee injury. Allen also found himself stacked behind the talented group of veteran wide receivers that the Chargers possessed. At one point during training camp, Allen began questioning himself and his position with the team and he considered walking away to continue his education at Cal and pursue a career in his other field of dreams: music. Thankfully though, some tough talk and motherly advice from Allen's mom, Doris, convinced the young wide receiver to hang in there and he did just that. Around the same time that Allen was agonizing over his future in the NFL, Danario Alexander went down with a knee injury and suddenly Allen found himself receiving more repetition with the offense. Then in the Chargers' second game of the season in Philadelphia, Malcom Floyd was carted off the field on the first play of the third quarter. Allen's number was called and two plays later he caught an 18-yard pass on a 3rd-and-8 play, igniting a touchdown drive that gave the Chargers a 20-10 lead and igniting a season that would end with Allen being celebrated center stage at New York City's Radio City Music Hall.
Over the final 14 weeks of the 2013 season, Allen would go on to set team rookie receiving records with 1,046 yards (also a team high) and 71 catches. He led all NFL rookies in catches, yards and touchdown catches (8). Allen topped the 1,000-yard plateau during the Bolts' regular-season finale, bettering John Jefferson's team mark of 1,001 yards from 1978, while posting the 35th 1,000-yard receiving season in team history. He also became the NFL's first 1,000-yard rookie since Cincinnati's A.J. Green in 2011, and he became just the fifth rookie since 2000 to go over the 1,000-yard mark. In Weeks 14-16 of the regular season, Allen caught five touchdown passes, the most by a Chargers wide receiver in three games since 1996. It included an impressive two-game stretch in the course of five days when Allen caught four of those touchdowns with two against the New York Giants on Dec. 8 and two more at Denver on Dec. 12. Twice in 2013, Allen racked up more than 100 yards in back-to-back games, a feat last achieved by a Chargers rookie in 1960.
Allen's outstanding play continued into the postseason as he led the team with eight catches for 163 yards and two touchdowns in two playoff games. It included a six-catch, 142-yard, two-touchdown performance in the divisional playoffs at Denver, giving him four touchdown catches in his last two games against the 2013 AFC Champion Broncos who went 13-3 during the regular season. Allen posted the team's second-most yards in a playoff game during that Denver contest and he became the first Charger since Jan. 1983 (Kellen Winslow at Pittsburgh) with two touchdown catches in a game. Allen's 142 yards against the Broncos also tied for the second-most yards by a rookie in a playoff game in NFL history with Philadelphia's Keith Jackson (Dec. 31, 1998) and he became the league's first rookie since New England's Julian Edelman in Jan. 2010 with two touchdown catches in a postseason game.
Long before the 2013 NFL Draft, Allen was a player coveted by Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco. In 2011, Telesco attended Cal's game against USC at San Francisco's AT&T Park and he noted that Allen really stood out on a field that was loaded with great players. Allen in fact enjoyed one of the most prolific days of his career that evening against the Trojans, catching a career-best 13 passes for 160 yards.
Allen left school after his junior season having caught a school-record 205 passes, for 2,570 yards (third in school history) and 17 touchdowns (seventh). It included a career-high 98 catches for 1,343 yards as a sophomore in 2011. Allen's half-brother, Zach Maynard, was his quarterback all three years at Cal. Maynard had originally enrolled at Buffalo, but transferred to Cal so that he and Allen could play together. In 2011, the two combined for the longest pass play in school history when they hooked up on a 90-yard score against the Washington Huskies. One of Allen's closest friends is Cincinnati Bengals' wide receiver Marvin Jones. They became teammates at Cal after Jones hosted Allen during his recruiting visit and they built a close bond. The two still talk on a regular basis.
TRANSACTION HISTORY: Third-round pick (76), April 26, 2013...signed May 13.
2014: Set career-highs with 10 catches and 135 yards Sept. 28 vs. Jacksonville...big catches during two touchdown drives vs. Jaguars... 24-yarder to Jags’ 47 in second quarter led to touchdown catch on following play by Eddie Royal...and during Malcom Floyd touchdown drive in third quarter, caught 15-yarder on 3rd-and-five play and 22-yarder on 2nd-and-13 play to go over 100 yards for game...Floyd touchdown gave Bolts 24-14 lead...during fourth-quarter field goal drive that led to 30- 14 lead, had 16-yard catch on 3rd-and-10 right after 22-yarder on 2ndand- 10 was ruled incomplete by replay challenge, and then 10-yarder on 3rd-and-6 for final catches to establish career highs in yards and catches... took over as punt returner for Eddie Royal late Oct. 12 at Oakland and set up game-winning touchdown with career-long 29-yard return to Raiders’ 39...six plays later, Chargers scored touchdown for final points in 31-28 win...led Bolts in catches Oct. 19 vs. Kansas City...helped set up late fourth-quarter game-tying field goal with 18-yard catch on 3rdand- 9 play followed by 14-yard catch to 33...scored first touchdown of season (2 yards) and led team with nine catches for 73 yards Oct. 23 at Denver...had 13-yard catch on 3rd-and-4 during TD drive...paced team with 104 yards and touchdown on six catches in 27-24 win over St. Louis Nov. 23...touchdown went for final points in victory as he bounced back from losing fumble at end of 35-yard catch-and-run at Rams’ 16 on previous possession to score game-winner...career-high 11 catches for 121 yards and tied career mark with two touchdowns in 34-33 win at Baltimore Nov. 30...targeted career-high 15 times...12-yard touchdown catch in first quarter and 23-yarder to pull Bolts within 30-27 with 3:40 left in fourth quarter...during game-winning touchdown drive one series later, had three catches for 33 yards, including catches of 14 and 12 yards on first two plays...injured ankle after making second quarter catch Dec. 14 vs. Denver...returned briefly in third quarter but did not finish game...also injured clavicle during game...inactive Dec. 20 at San Francisco and Dec. 28 at Kansas City.
2013: Pepsi Next and Sporting News NFL Rookie of Year...Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA), CBSSports.com and Sports Illustrated NFL Offensive Rookie of Year...PFWA All-Rookie...ESPN All-AFC West...first two NFL catches Sept. 15 at Philadelphia...both were third-down catches good for first downs during scoring drives...first went for 18 yards on 3rd-and-11 during touchdown drive and second covered 16 on 3rd-and-7 during field goal drive...made first catch despite being interfered with, drawing penalty flag..several big catches in 30-21 win over Dallas Sept. 29...helped sustain first touchdown drive of game with 31-yard catch on 3rd-and-8...later ignited field goal drive that gave Bolts 23-20 lead with 19-yard catch from own 10 on first play...first-career touchdown on seven-yard catch in fourth quarter at Oakland Oct. 6...started drive with 21-yard punt return and also drew pass interference penalty on 1st-and-15 play...in third quarter, also caught 11-yarder that was ruled TD on field, but overturned by instant replay...finished night with 115 yards for first-career 100-yard game...Pepsi Next NFL Rookie of Week after game-high 107 yards in 19-9 win over Indianapolis Oct. 14...second-straight 100-yard game to become only second Chargers rookie and first since Don Norton in 1960 with back-to-back 100-yard games...scored team’s only TD of night (22 yards) in second quarter...team-high 128 yards and 16-yard late fourth-quarter TD catch Nov. 3 at Washington...TD catch helped team erase 10-point deficit...had 16-yard catch on 3rd-and-3 during drive...on drive after TD, caught 22-yard pass on 4th-and-2, followed by successive catches of 20 and 11 yards that led to game-tying field goal...Pepsi Next NFL Rookie of Week after game-high nine catches and 124 yards in 41-38 win Nov. 24 at Kansas City, including eight catches for 104 yards in first half...was fourth 100-yard game of season to set new team rookie record...game highs in yards (106) and catches (eight) Dec. 1 vs. Cincinnati...second-consecutive 100-yard game, marking second occasion with back-to-back 100-yard games...fifth 100-yarder of season, extending team rookie record...19-yard catch on 3rd-and-10 in second quarter helped set up team’s only touchdown of game...first-career multi-touchdown game during 37-14 win over New York Giants on Dec. 8...TD catches of 43 yards(career long) and four yards, both on 3rd-down plays...both touchdowns in first half as Bolts jumped out to 24-0 lead after two quarters...raised season receptions total to 61, setting new team rookie record, eclipsing previous mark of 59 by LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001... Pepsi Next NFL Rookie of Week after helping Chargers to 27-20 upset win over 11-2 Denver with touchdown catches of 19 and 10 yards on third down plays in second quarter Dec. 12 at Sports Authority Field...marked four touchdowns in five game stretch and were sixth and seventh scoring catches of season...eighth TD catch of season (4 yards) in third quarter to break 10-10 tie in 26-13 win over Oakland Dec. 22...was fifth TD in last three games, equaling most by Chargers WR in three-game stretch since 1996...also had season-long 28-yard punt return in game... Pepsi Next NFL Rookie of Week after team-high 89 yards receiving in 27-24 overtime win against Kansas City Dec. 29 that put Chargers into AFC playoffs...upped season tally to team-leading and team rookie record 1,046 yards...went over 1,000 yards on 38-yard catch that set up game-tying field goal late in fourth quarter...earlier, 24-yard catch on 3rd-and-6 helped set up TD that tied game at 14-14...held to two catches in Jan. 5 Wild Card Playoff win at Cincinnati, but both were 3rd-down catches in third quarter that helped sustain scoring drives...nine-yard catch on 3rd-and-1 helped sustain TD drive and 12-yarder on later 3rd-and-7 helped sustain FG drive...tied team postseason record with two touchdowns and second most yards in team playoff history (142) in Jan. 12 divisional playoffs at Denver...both TDs covered 16 yards in fourth quarter...set up second TD with 49-yard catch on desperation 4th-and-5 play...became fourth player in team history with two touchdown catches in postseason game, while 100-yard game was just 14th in team’s postseason history.
COLLEGE: Honorable mention All-Pac-12 as junior, third-team All-America and first-team All-Pac-12 as sophomore and second-team All-Pac-10 as frosh...2011 Bear Backers MVP Award...four-time recipient of College Football Performer of Week Award, including three times as wide receiver and once as punt returner...Pac-10 Special Teams Player of Week as freshman vs. Arizona State...played at California from 2010-12...African-American studies major.
PERSONAL: Born in Greensboro, N.C....spent freshman and sophomore seasons at Grimsley (Greensboro) High School... played alongside half-brother and quarterback, Zach Maynard...transferred to Greensboro's North Guilford High as junior and senior...USA Today All-America as senior...all-state as junior...as senior, led squad to 3A Mid-State Conference title.