CLEMSON — Dwayne Allen was in the media room at Littlejohn Coliseum waiting to be honored at a Clemson basketball game in January.
A month earlier, he had won the Mackey Award, presented to the nation’s best tight end. A week earlier, he had declared for the NFL draft after watching New England tight end Rob Gronkowski set the single-season receiving record for a tight end with 1,327 yards.
Allen smiled as he looked up at a television in the media room displaying the New York Giants-Green Bay Packers’ playoff game, a contest featuring yet another tight end, Green Bay’s Jermichael Finley as a focal point of an NFL offense.
Allen is entering the NFL at the right time, as there has never been a better time to be a tight end in the league. Some dubbed last season as the year of the tight end. Seventeen tight ends had at least 600 receiving yards last season. In 1992, only four tight ends had at least 600 yards receiving.
“Watching the playoffs was great,” Allen said. “Watching the end of the season, seeing all the tight ends shine and get love was great.”
Allen is projected to go in the second round of the draft after catching 50 passes for 598 yards and eight touchdowns last season, all single-season program records for a tight end at Clemson.
Allen is slotted by most pundits to be the second tight end selected after Stanford’s Coby Fleener, who impressed scouts during his workouts with a 4.45-second 40-yard dash. Allen ran a 4.8-second 40.
“I’m not a track guy. I’m a football player,” Allen told porters after his workout.
Tight ends have become a focal point of today’s NFL passing offenses because they present mismatches on nearly every play. Tight ends are typically too fast for linebackers to cover and too strong and physical for defensive backs.
Said ESPN’s Mel Kiper of Allen: “He’s a fantastic athlete, can create matchup problems. The NFL is craving these types right now.”
Allen’s blocking skills had been a question mark, but he showed vast improvement this past season under offensive coordinator Chad Morris.
“Coach Morris said he was going to make me the most versatile player in the country,” Allen said. “I believe he did that at the tight end position.”