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Old 09-10-2006, 11:08 PM   #1
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Default Steelers practice squad has English accent

Steelers practice squad has English accent

By John Grupp
Monday, September 11, 2006

Even when everyone around him was kicking soccer balls, Marvin Allen never felt out of place.
When his friends shot him glances because he'd rather watch the Super Bowl than the World Cup, Allen shrugged it off.

"They never twisted my arm to play soccer," he said. "I was always better at football, anyway."

For certain, Allen is the only player in the Steelers locker room who speaks with an English accent. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound wide receiver gives an international flavor to the Steelers' practice squad.

"Flag football is pretty big in England," he said. "But full-contact football is pretty small right now."

Allen, a 23-year-old British citizen, is on a one-year internship as part of the NFL International Development Practice Squad. The soft-spoken Brit was embraced by his new teammates.

"He's a great guy," receiver Cedrick Wilson said. "He's just in here working and doing what the coaches expect of him. ... He's funny. His accent is the funniest."

Said coach Bill Cowher: "These are memories he can cherish for a lifetime. It's a good gesture to let them come over and experience it."

Allen, who doesn't count against the Steelers' eight-man practice squad, will stay until early January, when he will return to the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe with many Steelers memories -- some bad, most good.

"Latrobe was rough," he said.

Allen barely saw the field during the preseason. He played on one punt coverage against Carolina -- he was double-teamed as the gunner -- and lined up at wide receiver for a couple of possessions.

"Slowly, I feel like I'm getting a little bit better," Allen said. "Tiny steps now. But I'm getting better, bit by bit. ... Everybody here is really cool. It's the best atmosphere I could wish for to do my internship or learn the game."

Allen started playing organized football at age 16 and dressed for his first full-contact game at 17. The game remains a novelty in England. Allen said his mom "probably doesn't know who the Steelers are."

Allen's father, Tony, does. He is NFL Europe's director of international player and football development.

The younger Allen was part of three British championship teams with the London O's football squad and made Team Europe for high school-aged players. With his sights on NFL Europe, he took a year off to get in better shape.

Allen played in 2005 for the Frankfurt Galaxy, catching 12 passes for 136 yards, and last year, for the Rhein Fire, where his coach was Pittsburgh native Jim Tomsula.

Allen, who is living out of a hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, watched Thursday night's opener against the Miami Dolphins in street clothes from the press box level. He is trying to follow in the footsteps of Arizona Cardinals guard Rolando Cantu and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Christian Mohr, who made NFL rosters after being part of the International Development Practice Squad.

"I would love to (play in the NFL)," Allen said, "but realistically, I have to set my goals a little bit differently."

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