Football

Zach Allen Role Model For Former FCIAC Players On National Stage

Zach Allen was the state Gatorade Football Player of the Year as a senior.

I was in a funk late Sunday afternoon. A very minor medical procedure had left me homebound for five days. I had a severe case of cabin fever — and the fear that this was what the next three months would be like.

Then came uplift: a heavy dose of Zach Allen on NFL RedZone as the Cardinals faced the Eagles. The former New Canaan star had his best game as a pro: 11 tackles and one highlight-worthy sack. According to Pro Football Reference, only three defensive linemen have had 11 tackles in a game since 2016.

Allen helped lead the Cardinals to a 33-26 win that kept them on the inside in the race for a playoff berth.

Allen was on television here the previous weekend, in the Cardinals’ 26-7 win over the Giants. In terms of rooting, it was the ultimate test for area Giants fans — including this one.

It has been easier here to keep track of Allen this season because of the pandemic. In a normal fall, with a high school football season, Sunday is a fairly busy work day. For the past three months it has been the Giants and Allen.

It is gratifying to watch talented high school athletes you cover, with a high ceiling, work hard to reach their potential. The NFL has several players with FCIAC roots. And if third-round pick Lucas Niang had not opted out of his rookie season due to the pandemic, with the air time the Chiefs get there would have been a high dose of another New Canaan alum.

Zach Allen (far right) in a photo of the New Canaan defensive leaders posted the day The Ruden Report went live, in 2013.

Allen’s performance sent me to the archives today. I found a photo of Allen and other members of the outstanding Rams defense that appeared the day this site went live in 2013.

I was able to dig up the highlights from Allen’s senior season, when he was the state Gatorade Player of the Year. Allen was a wrecking ball, with his best game coming in an overtime Turkey Bowl loss to Darien. Allen had four sacks and three forced fumbles.

Allen made the jump and had an outstanding career at Boston College, which propelled him to being the first pick in the third round by the Cardinals in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Allen, who missed three games at midseason with an injury, has 27 tackles and two sacks. He will be back on national television Saturday afternoon, an important divisional game again the 49ers.

It was obvious during his days at New Canaan that Allen had spotlight-potential. Now he’s reaping the benefits of his hard work, positively representing his town and a small state that is increasingly sending football players to the national level.

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Another former Ram who shares a lot in common with Allen has not received his due, though that is more circumstantial. Drew Pyne for most of the season as a freshman has been Notre Dame’s backup quarterback.

With Ian Book as the starter, barring injury Pyne was not going to get more than the mop-up duty he has received in a couple of blowouts.

Pyne was listed as the backup for the Irish’s game last Saturday against Clemson. Pyne, like Allen, was a humble star for the Rams, letting his play on the field do the talking and always deflecting credit.

Pyne’s status is a reflection of the 11-plus-months he put in annually honing his craft. To be the No. 2 quarterback for a team that will be in the national playoffs should not be overlooked.

High school football in the state, and the FCIAC in particular, has never been played at a higher level than now. There are more college players from the conference than ever before. It has been impossible in recent years to go to a Division III game in the northeast without seeing at least one player from the area.

And that has been reflected on the national level too. This fall you could watch Darien’s Andrew Stueber starting on the offensive line for Michigan early on a Saturday afternoon, and tune in late at night to see Greenwich’s Scooter Harrington playing for Stanford.


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