From Saluki to Dolphin: Former SIU linebacker Chase Allen’s journey to the NFL


Senior linebacker Chase Allen (5) attempts to tackle WIU sophomore wide receiver Stacey Smith (13) during the Salukis’ 44-34 win against Western Illinois on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

By Denton "Gio" Giovenco, Sports Editor

Former SIU linebacker Chase Allen entered the Miami Dolphins training camp as an undrafted free agent invitee. After three months of absorbing a pro playbook in between grueling workouts on and off the field, he dodged player cuts while leading all NFL players in tackles during the preseason to earn a place on the Dolphins 53-man opening-day roster.

Allen committed to SIU out of Belleville East High School in January of 2012. Coming out of high school, the 8A All-State and First-Team All-Conference linebacker was listed as a St. Louis Post-Dispatch Super 30 recruit in the Illinois/Missouri metro area.

The management major was named to the MVFC Academic Honor Roll while taking a redshirt in his first season with the Saluki football team.


Allen played in all 12 games of the 2013 season as a redshirt freshman, recording 32 tackles and 1.5 sacks from the outside linebacker position. His solo sack that season came against Eastern Illinois University quarterback — and subsequent 2014 second-round pick of the New England Patriots — Jimmy Garroppolo.

Following a transition from outside to inside linebacker, Allen led the Salukis with 95 total tackles in his sophomore season. His tackle total placed him ninth overall in the MVFC in 2014.

Allen led SIU in tackles again in his junior season with 120, picking up double-digit tackles in seven of the 11 games he played to earn second team All-MVFC honors. In a week two matchup against Southeast Missouri State University, he posted an impressive 19 tackles — not accomplished since former Saluki All-American Alexis Moreland recorded 19 in a single game in 2002.

As a senior, Allen earned SIU’s Tony Bleyer Team MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Toughest Saluki awards to go along with an honorable mention to the 2016 All-MFVC Team. He led the Salukis in tackles for the third season in a row, totaling 77 on the year. He joined former Southern linebacker Kevin Kilgallon (1988-90) as the only players to lead the team in tackles for three consecutive years.

Allen played under four different defensive coordinators through 45 total games spanning his five-year college career. The former Saluki linebacker accumulated 324 total tackles during that time, good for 12th in SIU history.

An invitation to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana in early March never materialized for Allen, so his focused turned to college-hosted pro days.  He attended Northwestern University’s pro day on March 14 in Evanston along with 49 other draft hopefuls from area schools.

With 25 NFL organizations in attendance, Allen eclipsed his projected time of 4.8 in the 40-yard dash with times of 4.58 and 4.61 for an official average of 4.60. Only two linebackers that participated in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine on March 5 posted better numbers. He also put up NFL Combine-level numbers in the 225 pound bench press, completing 23 reps in the strength test, and scored 33-inches in the vertical jump.


Jacob Wiegand
Saluki senior inside linebacker Chase Allen (5) tackles Leatherneck sophomore wide receiver Stacey Smith (13) as junior cornerback Craig James (31) and sophomore running back Steve McShane (34) close in on the pair during the first half of the SIU’s matchup against WIU on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

Only two NFL teams attended SIU’s pro day on March 17, but Allen had already put himself in talks as a late-round draft prospect following his impressive numbers at Northwestern.

Even with the boost to his draft stock stemming from his pro day performance, Allen went undrafted through all seven round of the 2017 NFL Draft in late April. But an official visit with the Dolphins coaching staff prior to the draft kept him on Miami’s radar as an undrafted free agent.

The Dolphins entered the offseason with glaring holes at linebacker after ranking 30th against the run during the 2016 season. They decided to address that need by choosing Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan in the second round of the NFL draft.

McMillan ran a third-best 4.61 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, threw up 23 reps in the bench test and claimed a 33-inch vertical jump to move up some analysts’ draft boards into the bottom of the first round.

But there are no guarantees in the draft, and Miami decided to sign undrafted free agent Allen — who posted similar numbers in his pro day as McMillan did at the Combine — on May 5 to bolster its linebacker depth entering training camp.

Allen was added along with 13 other undrafted signees to the Dolphins 90-man offseason roster. He took reps as a linebacker on defense and on special teams throughout offseason workouts leading up to Miami’s first preseason game on Aug. 10 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Across the sidelines during that first preseason game was a familiar face, Belleville West graduate and Falcons rookie running back Brian Hill. They would meet in the third quarter of the game when Hill was taken down by Allen for a 1-yard gain on a run up the middle. That was one of six tackles the former Saluki claimed during the Dolphins 23-20 win.

Overshadowing the Dolphins win was what proved to be a season-ending injury to second-round draft pick and projected starting linebacker McMillan.

Saluki senior inside linebacker Chase Allen tackles Jackrabbit junior tight end Dallas Goedert during the first half of the SIU’s 45-39 loss to South Dakota State on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)

McMillan pulled up lame while covering a punt on special teams in the opening minutes of Miami’s first preseason game and limped off the field. An MRI on the Friday following the game confirmed that he tore his right ACL and would need season-ending surgery.

Following the injury to McMillan, Allen saw more reps on defense throughout the Dolphins final three preseason games. He took advantage of the opportunity and recorded eight tackles in game two, seven in game three and 13 in Miami’s final preseason game on Aug. 31 against the Minnesota Vikings to lead all NFL players with 34 tackles through the preseason. New York Giants rookie linebacker Curtis Grant was the closest to Allen in tackles through four preseason games with 25 total.

With NFL owners passing a new resolution in March eliminating the first roster cutdown from 90 players to 75 before the final preseason game, allowing all teams to play the their final preseason match-ups with a roster of 90 players, Allen had to survive 37 cuts instead of the traditional 22 following the final game.

Coming off a stellar preseason performance coupled with the injury to McMillan leaving a vacancy in the Dolphins depth chart at linebacker, Allen survived Miami’s mandatory cut-down to 53 players on Sept 2. He also survived waiver claims and free agent signings the next day to solidify his spot on the opening day roster.

Allen was one of five undrafted free agents to make the Dolphins 53-man roster, and the fifth undrafted Saluki over the last 10 years to earn a spot on an NFL roster.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 250-pound rookie is listed on Miami’s depth chart as a linebacker, behind second-year linebacker Mike Hull and nine-year NFL veteran linebacker Rey Maualuga — who signed with the Dolphins on Aug 19 after being released by the Cincinnati Bengals in March after eight seasons.

Miami’s first game of the 2017 NFL season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on Sept. 10 in Miami is in the process of being moved by the NFL offices to another stadium, or possibly week 11 of the season when both Miami and Tampa Bay have a bye week, due to Hurricane Irma’s projected landfall in Florida over the weekend. While it is not clear when the Dolphins will play their first game of the 2017 season, it is certain that Allen will be on the sidelines – and possibly on the playing field — when they do as a professional player in the NFL.

Sports writer Denton “Gio” Giovenco can be reached at or on Twitter @DentonGiovenco.

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