Chase Allen found waiting out NFL cut down day more difficult than waiting out his pro debut.
"Definitely final cuts. It's something I had a part in for control of. I couldn't control the hurricane coming," Allen told Prairie State Pigskin Tuesday.
Allen, who led Southern Illinois three straight years in tackles as a linebacker, led the NFL in tackles during the preseason.
"I felt like I did enough to be on a 53-man (roster) whether it was here in Miami or somewhere else. I'm glad the coaches thought I was good enough and fit the scheme here in Miami," said Allen, who attended downstate Belleville East High School. "I think I showed that I improved week to week. That I can take coaching and that I've learned. I'm not saying I'm there yet, but I'm showing that I can keep improving. That's a big part of the NFL. When coaches see that, they think they can work with you."
First Allen made the Dolphins' final roster as an undrafted free agent. Then came Hurricane Irma, which postponed Miami's opener against Tampa Bay. Thus, the Dolphins began their season a week later on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The night before that game Miami coaches told Allen he would be starting at linebacker. Scheduled starter Lawrence Timmons went AWOL from the team unexpectedly and did not play. Timmons was suspended indefinitely by the team Tuesday.
"Lawrence Timmons had an issue that he had to deal with and it was next man up," the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Allen said. "I slept fine, but you wake up a little quicker on game day."
Allen recorded four tackles in his debut, one of them for a loss. He was also on the field for the game-deciding play in which Chargers' kicker Younghoe Koo missed a 44-yard field goal with five seconds to play.
"I went through for the block and saw the kicker's eyes. They kept getting bigger. That's when I turned. It missed by about three feet and that's when we just went nuts," Allen said of Miami's 19-17 victory.
Allen's parents, Tammy and Chris, were not in attendance for his NFL debut.
"They made it to a couple preseason games," Allen said. "They usually get a big group of people back home and head to a sports bar and all watch it together."
Adjusting to the NFL
Allen said his biggest challenge of the NFL is "the mental part."
He added, "Being ready every day. You can't take any days off or the guy next to you is going to pass you up. I treat every day like it's a game and I'm prepared. You've got to stay sharp mentally. I feel like that's the biggest change from college to the NFL."
Asked to elaborate, Allen said, "The coaches tell us a play and we don't even walk through it. You've got to know it."
Allen spent Tuesday, generally an off-day for NFL players, settling into an apartment and lining up furniture.
"It's like the adjustment of going from high school to college. You're figuring out where you're living. We've been in a hotel this whole time. It's nice to get an apartment and have a place to settle down in," he said.
On the same day that Miami suspended Timmons, the Dolphins traded a draft pick to the New Orleans Saints for linebacker Stephone Anthony. Questions remain whether former Cincinnati Bengals' first-round draft pick Rey Maualuga, signed by Miami in August, will be activated for Sunday's game against the New York Jets.
"We've had two days off. We have a team meeting tomorrow and will probably get everything explained," Allen said. "I'm taking it day by day and trying to adjust to this life."
Keeping up with the Salukis
A year ago, Allen was coming off a 10-tackle, two tackles-for-loss, one sack performance in a 50-17 thumping of Murray State at Carbondale's Saluki Stadium. He finished his SIU career being named the team's MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Toughest Saluki.
Certainly, Allen hasn't forgotten his past.
"I've kept in touch with the coaches and a lot of the players. I've texted guys throughout the week and they've done the same with me," he said.
The Salukis, his former team, are off to a 2-0 start this season. SIU plays Saturday night at Memphis, an FBS program fresh off an upset of nationally ranked UCLA.
"That's a big game, for sure," Allen said.
No doubt Sunday's Dolphins' game is too.