INDIANAPOLIS – Dwayne Allen made an impression on Chuck Pagano the moment the Colts' head coach laid eyes on him. A solid judge of character, Pagano was dead on about Allen.
"He was a man. When he walked in the room, it was all business," said Pagano. "Going back to the Combine and interviewing him, you could tell he was mature beyond his years."
Allen joined the Colts after a Clemson career that saw him win the Mackey Award and start 33-of-41 games while nabbing 93 receptions for 12 touchdowns.
Allen was used in a pro-style attack at Clemson, training that speed-tracked him for success on Sundays.
Allen started 16 games for the Colts and the playoff outing at Baltimore. His 45 receptions set the club rookie standard for tight ends. Allen, though uses a different yardstick to gauge things.
"I would say it (the season) was a success. I measure my success on team success," said Allen. "We were able to come out and make the playoffs."
Though he was a success by numbers, Allen said there is only one stat that mattered: one-for-one, meaning one year, one playoff berth. Other than that, he set no goals.
"I went into the year with no expectation, no goals. I feel in order for me to accurately set my goals, I have to experience it first," said Allen. "I never played in the NFL. I didn't know game-to-game, week-to-week what it was going to be like as far as competition, so how could I set goals?
"The year went great. I really enjoyed myself. I was blessed to start 17 games. I gained a lot of experience. The coaching staff did a great job of working with me. Coach Arians and his offensive installs were good. Coach Roberts and the way he worked with tight ends, whether it was releasing, catching the ball, blocking, he was good at what he did. I'm definitely a reflection of his coaching on Sundays."
Allen was one of many Colts rookies who bought into the program. He and Andrew Luck started every game. It was a young offense that accomplished a great deal. The club never dropped consecutive games and after a 2-3 start, Indianapolis zoomed to 6-3 and then 9-4.
Allen liked the production and followed the lead of veterans.
"Experiencing the highs and lows, being able to rip off four games in a row in the manner we did then to take a big loss at New England and come back was good," said Allen. "Being a rookie, I could see the difference between myself and some of the veterans. They see the big picture of things, and I was still in the college mode where everything counts. After experiencing one year, I'm better set to start making those goals for my second season.
"First, it starts with team goals. Having a new offensive coordinator, there's going to be some changes. My first goal always is to make sure the team wins. That means protecting the home turf like we did this past season by going 7-1. It means going to the playoffs, that's what's important – putting Indianapolis back where it was for so long."
Allen says he is not achieving his purpose just by playing in the NFL. His passion is winning in the NFL to the degree where the last game of the season is in February and with his team prevailing.
"People ask, 'Are you living your dream?' I say, 'No,' " said Allen. "I'll be living my dream after a Super Bowl when I'm lifting up the Lombardi Trophy. That's how I see it. When that happens, I'll let everyone know I'm living my dream."
Pagano feels Allen is suited perfectly for the offense.
"Dwayne's a physical, talented presence. He's going to be one of the best, if not the best, tight end in this league. I really believe that. In a couple of years (that's where he'll be)," said Pagano. "I think he played with a chip on his shoulder. He approached practice and worked his tail off. He did it in meeting rooms. He looked to me like the way he approached his craft that he was a three- or four-year veteran.
"He's very physical. He did a great job as an in-line blocker. Down the field, running routes, catching balls and making plays I thought he was outstanding. Moving forward, Pep Hamilton does a great job of finding ways to utilize all the talent and weapons Andrew Luck has around him. I think Dwayne is only going to get better."
Allen believes he only is getting started. Noting his head coach's comments caused only a slight pause, and then it is back to working his dream.
"I feel I'm only scratching the surface as far as the things I think I'm going to be able to do in this league. It's a huge compliment (from coach), but I have to get better," said Allen. "I have to get better with the run after the catch. I will never be satisfied. Thanks for the compliment but the day I'm satisfied with my game, will be the day I will hang my cleats up. That's the day I will have nothing left to prove.
"Being the competitor I am, every day and game I'm going out to prove that I'm the best."