Jump to content
Washington Football Team Logo

TBO: A Daily Tribute To Dad


Recommended Posts

A Daily Tribute To Dad

By JOEY JOHNSTON jjohnston@tampatrib.com

Published: Jun 20, 2004


TAMPA - The many sides of Bucs General Manager Bruce Allen - husband, dad, brother, political junkie, adventure- seeker, workaholic, numbers- cruncher, consensus-builder, former coach, executive in three different pro leagues and former agent - all lead to the same conclusion.

Bruce Allen is his father's son. The influences are everywhere. So are the reminders, especially in his corner office at One Buc Place, where a familiar motto scrolls on his computer screen saver.

The Future Is Now.

``If you take care of today, tomorrow will take care of itself,'' said Allen, hired in January after nine seasons with the Oakland Raiders. ``The players deserve to win now. I don't think Derrick Brooks is going to be too impressed if I tell him four years from now we're going to have a pretty good team. So yeah, I believe in the urgency.''

So did his late father, George Allen, who coined the motto.

The Hall of Fame coach once transformed the Los Angeles Rams and Washington Redskins from losers to winners. He molded a collection of veteran castoffs into a wildly overachieving ``Over The Hill Gang.'' Filled with quirks, he rewarded his teams with ice- cream treats and chants of ``Hip-Hip-Hooray!''

To the end, he believed he could outwork any opponent.

That was Bruce Allen's father - and his best friend.

``I can't go through a day without something [that his father said] popping into my mind,'' Allen said. ``He was my hero as a man more than a football coach.''

George Allen died Dec. 31, 1990, at the age of 72 - one month after the completion of his final season, when he coaxed a 6-5 record from Long Beach State.

Ever since, Bruce Allen hasn't needed Father's Day to pay tribute to his dad. It's a natural part of his job - and his life.

Family Catalyst

George Allen's 81- year-old widow, Etty, lives alone in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., in a home that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. She's a French-Tunisian woman who fell in love with George at first sight, when she visited the campus of Morningside College. He was the first-year football coach.

Several months after Etty returned to her home in North Africa, George spent most of a year's salary for airfare and changed planes a half-dozen times, just so he could meet her parents and ask permission for marriage.

``There are times when I can't believe he has been gone [more than] 13 years,'' she said. ``I love him still. I miss hearing his voice. If George was away from home, he would call me before going to bed. Every single night.''

Now she gets another call practically every day.

From her son in Tampa.

``Aloha!'' Bruce will say.

``It makes my day,'' she said. ``I think it's his way of carrying on something that George would do, letting me know I'm on his mind. Bruce just makes me happy. He's the leader of the family in so many ways.''

A family that includes George Jr., a U.S. Senator from Virginia; Gregory, a psychologist in Torrance, Calif; Jennifer, a teacher and writer who explored George Allen's life and career in ``Fifth Quarter,'' which was published in 2000; and nine grandchildren.

``Bruce keeps things in circulation and lets one family member know how the other is doing,'' Jennifer said. ``He keeps the chemistry going.''

Just like a good coach.

A Life In Football

The analogy may seem forced - like coach, like son - but it's true.

Bruce's earliest memories are sitting in the back seat of a car, listening to his father, then a defensive coordinator, talking strategy with Chicago Bears coach George Halas.

Young Bruce, trying to help at training camp, once arranged Bear helmets in a perfect line. Of course, this was before numbers or names had been inscribed. Players struggled to find the proper headgear and practice was delayed. Halas went ballistic.

``I learned some of my first profanity from the founder of the NFL,'' Bruce said.

He also learned football from his father, who introduced the blitz, the nickel defense and situational substitution.

Bruce experienced everything closely. Like the day in Washington when he stole the snap count from Cardinals quarterback Jim Hart. Bruce slid down to the 30-yard line, where he spotted Hart extending two fingers. ``It's on two,'' he relayed to the defense.

When the Cardinals caught on, and referees investigated, George Allen innocently shrugged his shoulders. He was prepared to disown Bruce. ``If it meant [avoiding] a 15- yard penalty, I understood,'' Bruce said.

His Father's Influence

Bruce Allen's driven personality was inspired by his father. That was inevitable. Not everyone subscribed to such unyielding standards, however.

George Allen was fired three times, including a stunning ouster by the Rams in 1978 after the second exhibition game. Owner Carroll Rosenbloom felt Allen was a control freak who couldn't deal with modern players.

George Allen never coached again in the NFL. He had been blackballed by the fraternity of owners. He drifted to the CFL, the USFL, then accepted Ronald Reagan's appointment as head of the President's Council on Physical Fitness.

He wasn't coaching, but he couldn't sit still.

After the USFL folded, George Allen spent five autumns out of coaching (``like a musician without his instrument,'' Jennifer Allen said) before joining Long Beach State. He put in 20-hour workdays, willing the 49ers from an 0-3 start to a 6-5 finish.

After going for two to clinch a one-point win against UNLV in the season finale, Allen was carried off the field by his players. He died as he always wished - as a winner.

He wasn't selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame until 2002 - an interminable waiting period for a coach with his qualifications - but his induction ceremonies were unforgettable. Former players, drawn like magnets to their mentor, came from all over.

``George Allen had some juice, now,'' Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. ``So does Bruce.''

Inherited juice. Genetic urgency. Call it what you will. But as Bruce Allen enters his first season with the Bucs, he has his father's focus. There's work to do. Time is short.

``Do I have the same drive as my dad? Yes,'' said Bruce, who named his oldest child, 7-year- old George, after his father. ``Am I as good as my dad? Probably not. And I don't take that as an insult.''

There was only one George Allen. For the son, an appropriate tribute for Father's Day - or any day, really - is to nurture his family, build his team and follow his father's example.

There are always reminders. Especially when he glances at his computer.

The Future Is Now.


Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...