There’s a Kansas City Chiefs sideline jacket deep in Michael Allan’s closet, one he rarely wore in his 16 months with the organization.
The former Whitworth tight end who became the unusual NCAA Division III product selected in the NFL draft still has his Chiefs-issued practice shorts.
Allan’s parents recently wore Kansas City Chiefs apparel while watching the AFC Championship game on television, custom No. 47 Allan jerseys they purchased during their son’s 2007 rookie season.
Allan, now a firefighter in Kirkland, Washington, also has a favorite Chiefs locale in nearby Issaquah, Stan’s Bar-B-Q, a bar and restaurant owned and operated by Kansas City natives and Chiefs loyalists.
He works on Sunday but hopes to catch glimpses of his former team in Super Bowl 54, as the Chiefs – making their first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years – will face the San Francisco 49ers in Miami.
More than a decade removed from his brief time in Kansas City, the Chiefs’ recent resurgence has evoked fun memories for Allan.
“It’s a class-act organization,” Allan said. “I always felt totally supported, and even after I got cut I kept in touch with some of the player personnel (staff). There’s still a lot of the trainers we had when I was there and facilities guys, so that tells you a lot about the ownership.”
Allan, who had the look of a Pac-12 tight end at Whitworth, where he often outmuscled smaller Northwest Conference defenders, was drafted by the Chiefs in the seventh round after impressing scouts with his mixture of size and athleticism at the 2007 NFL combine.
At 6-foot-6 and 254 pounds, the sure-handed Allan was clocked at 4.7 in the 40-yard dash, had a 36-inch vertical leap and recorded the best broad jump (10 feet, 6 inches) of all tight ends at the combine.
Coming out of Interlake High School in Bellevue, a program that primarily ran the football, he was a 6-4, 190-pound wide receiver who didn’t generate much recruiting interest from bigger schools.
When he fully grew into his body at the north Spokane school, he was a force for former Whitworth coach John Tully, who was sure to get his biggest and best target the football.
The two-time All-American also was invited to the East-West Shrine Game after setting school records for touchdown receptions in a season (15), career touchdown receptions (29) and career yards per catch (18.7).
In eight games as a junior in 2005, Allan hauled in 36 passes for 693 yards and 15 touchdowns. As a senior in 2006 – when Whitworth went 10-0 in the regular season and advanced to the second round of the Division III playoffs – he caught 53 passes for 1,100 yards and nine TDs.
When he got his foot in the NFL door with Kansas City, he said he was treated like an equal despite his obscure background.
“The second I stepped on the field, I quickly realized I was in the same room as these guys from bigger schools who, like me, were trying to make the team,” Allan said. “We were all the same.”
Allan also worked alongside NFL Hall of Fame tight end and Chiefs great Tony Gonzalez, who Allan said was a positive influence who often shared his wisdom, even though Allan was a practice-squad player.
“He was a great mentor,” Allan said of Gonzalez. “ I was obviously no threat to him. We worked out a lot together, and they were grooming me to replace him the future.”
Then-Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards initially had offensive coordinator Mike Solari, who Allan said had playcalling more tailored to his skills as a receiving tight end.
In a 2007 preseason game against the Miami Dolphins, he hauled in three passes and gained confidence in his role.
“I was getting open, catching passes over the middle,” he said. “That’s when I realized I could play at that level. I was holding my own against my favorite childhood team, the Dolphins.”
Following a 4-12 season, Edwards brought in new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey in 2008, the start of Allan’s second year. Allan didn’t fit into the scheme that used H-backs more than true tight ends, he said, and was cut before the regular season.
“And once you’re out of the league, it’s hard to get back in,” he said.
The players, coaches and front office figures are different than in 2007, but the organization is still owned by the Hunt family, whose team is now being led by veteran, pass-happy head coach Andy Reid, who has helped reshape the franchise.
When Allan watches Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (6-5, 260) catch passes from young star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, he sometimes wonders how he would have done in today’s Chiefs offensive system that often uses a big, athletic tight end.
“I was obviously no Travis Kelce, but I’m thinking I can do similar things because that was my play style,” Allan said. “When he catches a pass I wonder, ‘Is that how I looked?’ ”
After trying out for several NFL teams and living out of a suitcase for more than a year, he gave up and eventually avoided football altogether.
Bitterness kept him away from the game for years, but at age 36 he’s enjoying the game as a fan again.
The Chiefs’ high-scoring, high-octane offense has made that easier.
“It’s a fun team to watch,” he said. “Which is great because that city loves its Kansas City Chiefs.”
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