Creativity separates Vikings’ Allison
By Dave Campbell
MANKATO, Minn. ó Aundrae Allison’s mind is always moving.
How, he asks himself, will I run this route? And what role, he wonders, would this man play in my next script?
Allison has been enough of a free spirit on the football field that Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell recently described him as “his own worst enemy.”
For this second-year wide receiver who played at A.L. Brown in Kannapolis, creativity is clearly a dominant trait.
“He’s his own person,” friend and fellow receiver Sidney Rice said. “He don’t really care what anybody thinks. He’s going to do what he feels like.”
Allison doesn’t look like a locker room rebel with a consistently contrarian view. Rather, he comes across as a regular 24-year-old who’s constantly thinking, curious about the world and unafraid of self-expression.Which explains his hobby: screenwriting.
“I’ve got a lot of things in my head,” Allison said after practice Saturday. “Like when I travel a lot, I just see a bunch of different things that I put in the back of my mind. I try to think about a movie, like how people might re-enact different characters.”
Inspiration for future scenes and narratives comes not from football, but from ordinary experience. Someone he sees at the store, for instance, or on a trip to discover a new land.
This summer, Allison climbed in his car and drove 51/2 hours across Minnesota’s northern border. There, he realized he might enjoy casting some Canadians ó “because they’re super-friendly,” he said ó in one of his stories.
Allison developed this interest in a screenwriting class at East Carolina, where he majored in communications. The skill was difficult to acquire at first, but he quickly became enamored with the craft.
“I got to, like, let my imagination go,” Allison said. “I start putting together stories, I start getting good grades on it and I just thought about it as that could be one of my hidden talents. Hopefully one day I’ll get that out there.”
When his NFL career ends, he plans to shift his focus. For now, he can find that outlet at the Vikings’ rookie talent show, an annual training camp highlight for the team. Allison said Rice will join him in a two-man re-enactment of “The Strangers,” a scary movie starring Liv Tyler released this summer.
“It’s going to be like the ghetto version of it,” Allison said, laughing. “It’s going to be fun.”
He’s having fun on the field, too, with a chance to essentially become Minnesota’s No. 4 receiver by surpassing veteran Robert Ferguson. Bernard Berrian, Bobby Wade and Rice were all limited by minor injuries this week, giving Allison plenty of time with the first-team offense.
After the Vikings drafted him in the fifth round last year, Allison was active for 11 games ó catching eight passes for 122 yards and averaging 28.7 yards on 20 kickoff returns. One of those, in December against Detroit, was a 104-yard touchdown.
“I’ll take that full responsibility if it’s given to me and try to do what’s best,” Allison said. “Hopefully I can get a lot more returns. I had an all right season, but I didn’t get a lot of returns. So if I was a full-time starter, I feel like I can make a lot of things happen.”
The coaches believe Allison has tried sometimes to make too much happen. Bevell complimented Allison for becoming a more reliable route runner since his rookie season ó and even since practices this spring.
“We tell this to Aundrae all of the time: He is his own worst enemy,” Bevell said. “He has got to do things the way we want him to do it. He’s a little bit of a free rider and a cowboy. That’s what I’ve seen him improve on. … He’s just got to make sure he’s doing it exactly the way we want it to be done because it puts us all on the same page.”
Head coach Brad Childress sounded a bit more sympathetic.
“At times we have too many line runners,” he said. “You know that line that you put in the playbook and say, ‘This is where you go.’ It’s important that they understand the flexibility and creativity that they have along that line. … When you’re thinking about assignment only, you’re thinking about that line. You’re not taking in what the defense is doing and the creativity you have based on what the defense presents.”
Ultimately, Allison said, the result is all that matters.
“It’s always good to use imagination because you don’t want to be stuck doing the same thing,” he said. “You don’t want to be seen on film doing the same thing.”