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He's Proud of Palmer, Still Puzzled by Davis

The Inside Track | Q & A WITH MARCUS ALLEN

December 27, 2002|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

For 21 years, he had the distinction of being the last Trojan to win the Heisman Trophy, until quarterback Carson Palmer was given the award this season.

He is expected to have the distinction of being in the next class of inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when the names are revealed Super Bowl weekend.

Marcus Allen, now a CBS broadcaster, is thrilled at Palmer's honor, apprehensive about discussing his own chances next month and still perplexed, all these years later, about his feud with Raider owner Al Davis, which ultimately drove Allen out of Los Angeles.

Question: Have you had a chance to talk to Palmer?

Answer: I talked to him before the Heisman show on a cell phone. I told him that I had admired the year he had had, how he handled himself, how he had played. I talked to him about the East Coast bias and I told him, whatever happens, he's a winner in my book.

Q: How much bias do you feel there is with East Coast voters?

A: There are some people who don't know they play football west of the Mississippi. It seems like the East Coast players get a little more attention. We hadn't had a Heisman Trophy winner on the West Coast in 21 years. It sure seems like someone must have been deserving.

Q: How did you react when Palmer's name was announced?

A: I was watching in Cleveland, where I was on an assignment. I was a little nervous and, when they said Carson Palmer was the winner, I started jumping up and down, like my own brother had won. In a sense, as a fellow Trojan, he is my brother.

Q: What was it like when you won?

A: It was different. It was so clandestine. As soon as I got there, they rushed me up the stairs, taking me the back way into a room where I was told that I was the winner. John Jackson, my running backs coach, was with me. He hugged me and started crying.

Q: Have you felt like crying, watching your Trojans struggle in recent seasons?

A: We had one of the more storied programs in all of sports. When I went there, there wasn't a question in anybody's mind that was the school to go to. There was a time when we would have three players going in the first round of the NFL draft. That hasn't happened in a long time. In recent years, we lost that luster, but now, with [Coach] Pete Carroll and Carson winning the Heisman and the young players we have, we've certainly got that luster back. This is not just an ordinary university. You have a lot to live up to as a player.

Q: Much of the blame for USC's failures on the football field fell on Athletic Director Mike Garrett. How do you think he handled the situation?

A: As a former player, you are more competitive than any nonplayer would be, a lot more critical, a lot more frustrated. Mike has such high standards for the players, both academically and athletically. When I talk to Mike, he has always been very firm, very resolute about the direction of the program, even when things weren't going well. Has he suffered moments of uncertainty? I never saw any of that. I know the kind of person he is. The hallmark of a great leader is, does he change his mind every time he is criticized? In Mike's case, absolutely not. When he hired Pete, a lot of people said, "What are you doing?" The sign of a great leader is someone who does what he thinks is right. Mike felt in his heart he was doing the right thing for the kids, for the program, for USC.

Q: Speaking of doing what you feel is right in your heart, if you should make it to the Hall of Fame, which team -- the Raiders or the Kansas City Chiefs -- would you want to be identified with?

A: I don't even like to talk about it, but if it happened, I would like to go in representing both teams. I would want to pay homage to both teams.

Q: Does that mean you and Al Davis have finally settled your differences?

A: I made several attempts to do so, but it seemed as if there was no energy to resolve things on the other side. So I finally gave up. Now, I really don't care. That was another life.

Q: What was the cause of the feud?

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