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|Tired of pompous Billy Price Jersey Elite , entitled athletes who don't seem to realize how good they have it?
Fed up with all the scandals and cheats and scoundrels mucking things up for the rest of us?
Meet Ricardo Allen.
He'll give you a reason to cheer.
Allen plays for the Atlanta Falcons, a 26-year-old free safety who will readily admit he's not the fastest, not the strongest, not the biggest guy in the room.
"I won't be anybody's first pick," said Allen, who at 5-foot-9 comes up 3 inches shy of this aging sports scribe.
He's so much more than that.
This is a guy who hasn't forgotten what it's like to be told you're not good enough 鈥?on HBO's "Hard Knocks" no less, for the whole world to see.
This is a guy who remembers what it's like to spend a year on the practice squad, putting in as much work as the next guy but knowing he won't get a chance to shine on Sundays.
So, when word came that Allen had agreed to a contract extension with the Falcons, one that should set him up nicely for the rest of his life if he manages his money right, he didn't exactly celebrate.
That's not his style.
Instead, he watched that "Hard Knocks" episode all over again, the one where then-Atlanta coach Mike Smith doles out the pink slip .
"You can kind of see I smiled a little bit," Allen recalled. "I knew that wasn't going to be my last straw. I've been turned down plenty of times in life, man. That wasn't the first time I've been told I wasn't good enough."
Allen's new contract 鈥?$19.5 million for three more seasons 鈥?pales in comparison to, say, teammate Matt Ryan, who agreed to a massive deal that averages $30 million a year and guarantees the star quarterback at least $100 million.
But Allen is grateful for his $5.5 million signing bonus. He knows that's a massive amount of money to just about anyone else. He hopes it sends just the right message to anyone scuffling on the fringes of a roster.
"This wasn't just a deal for myself," Allen said. "This was a deal for everybody who has to struggle Youth Anthony Averett Jersey , who has to fight from the bottom. It's possible to make it to the top."
Even now, he has a soft spot for all those guys going through the same struggles.
"When I was in college, I used to work out with the walk-ons," Allen said. "I was always attracted to hard workers. I was always attracted to the bottom feeders."
After Dan Quinn took over as Atlanta's coach in 2015, he was impressed by Allen's tackling skills but felt he was out of place at cornerback, his position at Purdue and what he started out playing with the Falcons.
Allen was moved to safety. Suddenly, he blossomed. One training camp after being waived, he surged to the top row of the depth chart, going on start 14 games as a de facto rookie in 2015.
But he never got comfortable.
Not even now, when he's so clearly a part of Atlanta's long-term plans.
"That ain't in my blood," Allen said, chuckling at the mere suggestion.
Zealously guarding against those thoughts ever creeping into his head, Allen is always looking for ways to make things harder on himself.
Right down to the smallest details.
If his eggs are too runny, he's not sending them back. If it gets cold in his room, he'll turn down the thermostat even more.
"This world is so used to being comfortable all the time," Allen said. "It's weird, man, I know. But it's just something I do so I don't get complacent, so I never feel like what I've done is enough."
Allen has always worn his emotions on his sleeve Arizona Cardinals Jerseys Womens , which was never more evident that when I talked with him less than an hour after the Falcons squandered a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl.
While most everyone else did their best to cover up the overwhelming pain, Allen made it clear exactly how he was feeling.
"I'm broken inside," he said that night in the bowels of Houston's NRG Stadium . "I'm not a guy that forgets very easy. I'll probably never forget this. It will always be haunting."
But, like every setback in Allen's life, pain served a purpose.
He put together another strong season in 2017, though the Falcons were knocked out of the playoffs in the divisional round. He's one of the leaders on a young, speedy defense, doling out and advice and mentoring anyone who wants to know how to do things the right way.
When the Falcons announced Allen's new contract, there wasn't a hint of jealousy from his teammates.
Quite the opposite.
That day, during a meeting with the entire team, Quinn asked, "If you've ever been supported or encouraged by Ricardo Allen, please stand up."
Everyone rose from their seats, from the biggest stars on the team to those who will likely be cut in a week or two.
"You see the impact that a guy like him has on a team," Quinn marveled.
It doesn't matter if you're a Falcons fan.
No. 37 is a guy we can all root for.
Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at s://apnews/search/paul%20newberry
Marlon Mack spent his rookie season serving as the understudy to one of pro football's greatest rushers.
This year, he's playing the lead in Indianapolis.
The 22-year-old running back got his big break when the Colts let 35-year-old Frank Gore walk away in free agency, handed Mack the starting job and offered him the chance to become a star on football's biggest stage. It's up to Mack to prove he can live up to the billing.
"You've just got to go out there and make a play every chance you get," Mack said.
History suggests Mack thrives under the bright lights.
The Florida native was a first-team all-state selection in high school and was chosen to play in the Semper Fidelis All-America Bowl.
In college, he set the American Athletic Conference's freshman rushing record with 1 Cheap Kyzir White Jersey ,041 yards, followed his conference rookie of the year season with a school-record 1,381 yards in 2015 and finished his career as South Florida's career leader in yards rushing (3,609) and touchdown runs (32). He was the first player in school history to earn three straight all-conference selections and the first to post three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
Mack's resume coupled with the rave reviews from his coaches helped persuade Colts general manager Chris Ballard to draft Mack in the fourth round.
He didn't disappoint in Indy, either.
Despite hurting his shoulder in training camp, an injury that required offseason surgery, Mack played in 14 games and rushed 93 times for 358 yards, caught 21 passes for 225 yards, scored four TDs and showed flashes that he could be the successor to Gore.
His results made Ballard decide not to re-sign the league's fifth-leading rusher and to transition to a guy who learned plenty from Gore.
"The first thing he taught me is don't dwell on the past," Mack said. "Just put on the pads and get ready for the next play."
Mack also can rely on a potentially stronger supporting cast for help.
Veteran Robert Turbin has been a successful short-yardage specialist for the Colts even though he missed 10 games last year with a dislocated left elbow. Turbin may be used differently when he returns from a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
"Guys are going to make mistakes and most of the time when things happen around the league, none of it is purposeful," Turbin said when the Colts reported to training camp last week. "In the NFL, they have very stringent rules and we have to obviously know what it is that we're doing, and we have to hold ourselves accountable to that."
While Turbin sits, Christine Michael may provide the experienced voice. He's trying to earn a roster spot on his fifth team in six years as he recovers from an undisclosed season-ending injury.
Another option is Josh Ferguson, who has been around longer than Mack but has seen less action and will be fighting off two draft picks to make the team.
Fourth-round Nyheim Hines lined up in the backfield, slot and on kick returns at North Carolina State and could be in all three places again this year. Coach Frank Reich had a similarly sized speedster in Philadelphia, Darren Sproles Mark Walton Jersey Bengals , and envisions Hines in that spot.
Fifth-round pick Jordan Wilkins is bigger, 6-foot-1 and 216 pounds, and has been so impressive at camp that Reich singled out Wilkins on Wednesday, acknowledging he's been better than hype.
Reich thinks it's a perfect script to challenge defenses.
"What I've seen is these guys are all good in pass protection, even Nyheim being a little bit smaller," Reich said. "He's willing to (block) and he knows what he's doing and has the right mindset. What I like is the versatility of our players. Then, we just have to see who has that knack with the ball in their hands to make guys miss (and) to break tackles."
What the roster lacks is a proven workhorse. Gore logged more carries during his three seasons in Indy (784) than the Colts' six backs at camp have combined (714).
But with Mack finally getting a shot at his dream role, he plans to deliver with a breakthrough performance.
"I know I can do 10 times better (than last season)," Mack said. "I feel like I can be that explosive guy, come out here, make plays and help my team get W's."
NOTES: The Colts activated left tackle Anthony Castonzo (hamstring) from the non-football injury list 鈥?just in time for the most physical practice of camp. Reich said afterward that practice would continue to have live hitting throughout the remaining 2陆 weeks in Westfield, a northern suburb of Indianapolis. ... It took Andrew Luck one week to get his timing down with Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton. How did it happen so quickly? "It's like when you wake up and brush your teeth, it's easy for us, man," Hilton said.