MIAMI – Keenan Allen projects more height than his 6’2 frame. He walks with purpose and decisiveness, his strides always facing north, always pushing forward. The 27 year old was named a Pro Bowl starter after another rock-steady season (90 receptions, 1,046 yards, five touchdowns) as the No. 1 option on the Chargers. He’s one of the most consistent parts of a team whose main attribute the past few seasons has been change. They moved out of San Diego to LA in 2017, playing games at the StubHub Center now renamed Dignity Health, and preparing for a move into the brand new SoFi Stadium. The team had records of 5-11, 9-7, 12-4 (with a playoff berth), and back to 5-11 over the past four seasons, and as of Monday, will be starting a new era after quarterback Philip Rivers became a free agent following 16 seasons with the Chargers.
For the less heralded and less newsworthy NFL team in Los Angeles, Allen is a sundial, shining light and staying fixed. He keeps his circle tight, family first, and words brief. When not focused on his three kids in their home in Orange County, he’s put time in teaching himself guitar and piano. He’s was reflective on Super Bowl week, as most everyone was following the death of Kobe Bryant, and his gaze looked past the horizon of where he’s looking, much as he does at the line of scrimmage – sizing up defenders but always with one eye on the end zone.
Uproxx Sports had the chance to speak with Allen as he visited the adidas suite in Wynwood, where he took in an art exhibition inspired by the brand’s Parley initiative for sustainability, and talked the impact Rivers has had on him over the years, as well as his approach to parenting, and what Bryant’s legacy has meant to him personally living in the Los Angeles area.
Martin Rickman: Now that you’ve had another year in the area, what has the transition has been like? How are you fueling yourself creatively and individually from in Southern California?
Keenan Allen: For me, it’s been great. Having a family, three kids, so it’s real slow paced. San Diego was more, you could kind of do everything and be everywhere at one time. And Tustin is just really chill for a family, so it’s been great for me, like I say, just being around other families. Meeting people that are 25, have families, and just camaraderie with them. Meeting new people, I can tell you it’s been great.
What have you learned about yourself through parenting?
Because a lot of guys, you are who you are, and then you get into parenting and you realize, oh, I’ve got a lot of work to do on myself so that I can provide for them.
Patience is one thing. I was selfish, very selfish, especially with my time. And I’m just trying to be more cognizant of that. Patience is probably the biggest thing, not having any patience. I remember telling myself I probably couldn’t even coach seventh and eighth graders with football, just because I would have to teach them so much and everything. But once you get the kids it’s like, all right, you have to do it.
I talked to Philip a long time ago about this, and he said one of the big things for him was like you’re going to make mistakes, and ridiculous stuff is going to happen, so you’ve got to be like more forgiving. And you got to also just be like more improvisational in life, because kids aren’t going to allow you to … they’re not going to fit into a plan.
Yeah. But it’s love though, because it’s always unconditional love, no matter what happens. Here’s some examples. Me getting mad at my little daughter when she, I don’t know, jumps off the couch, and I just told her not to. And she runs off crying. But three seconds later she’s right back, “Daddy, are we going somewhere?” Just not being able to do that with regular human beings. It’s special to me.
That relationship with him, obviously, is so special, between the two of you, and the time that you spent with him. What have you learned from him? And what’s the guidance been like to have a guy who’s such a steady dad, that for so long kind of trace your career and helped you grow into, not just a receiver, but as a man?
Just watching him every day, following his examples on how to be at home. How to balance football and then back home. He has nine kids, I only have three, so if he can figure out a way to be as dominant as he has been for 17 years, and still be the father figure at home, where he still has the respect, is major. So just watching that and being able to pick up on things that he does, as far as timing, his dedication to his family, with still playing football, is major.
In every room I’ve been in, Kobe is brought up, it’s been in every conversation I’ve had. But I think something that’s really been good about it, is how much it’s forced all of us to look at the conversations that we have, make us stand up a little bit straighter, make it more heightened in our awareness. Has it all hit you?
It has not hit me. I don’t think it will. I don’t want to believe it still. It’s kind of one of those things like Tupac, you’re just going to be waiting on him to come back and pop up, but it definitely hurt, for sure. I’ve had conversations with him, he’d talk with the team, it’s inspiring stuff. Every time he’d talk to you it’s like, he doesn’t even have to say “be quiet” because everybody is going to do it anyway, because that’s just the respect he had. And the way that he carried himself, it was just legendary.
I was talking to Todd (Gurley) about this yesterday, is there almost like a responsibility for the athletes in LA to really just keep this community together? Because I know that happened when Nipsey Hussle died.
Yeah, absolutely. Hopefully everybody buys into it. I don’t think it will be a problem. Like I said, he had that respect, and the way he carried himself, he had it. I do think that we will come together and keep pushing that inspiration. Even myself, I’m finding myself taking more pictures, signing more autographs and stuff like that. Just being more, I don’t know, I guess happy about the position that I am in.
Just trying to live in the moment. Taking advantage of it every time. You never know.
Every guy seems like they take something different away from Super Bowl weekend when they’re down here. Do you like being in the host city?
I do. I’m not a big fan of traffic and crowded areas. It’s loud. I don’t even like going to LA really. I try to stay in Irvine or Tustin. But, yeah, any time I can get with great people, great athletes, and be around a great vibe is amazing.
With what adidas is doing with sustainability, and you see it in Southern California, it’s such a big emphasis to leave the world a bit better than we got there. What do you embrace with the philanthropy and community charity type stuff that you do?
I’ve actually started recycling. We’ve got to start recycling and do the best we possibly can. I just realized that you didn’t have to put a bag in the recycling can. I thought you had to put a bag in there, so just figuring that out. Just being more responsible about it just so the environment is clean. For me, it’s taking care of my part, like I said, helping.
But you also have kids too. We don’t want to trash this, and they grow up and they’ve got nothing.
Human beings, man.