OWINGS MILLS – The photograph is over a decade old, a blurry, black and white image of Baltimore Ravens rookie running back Anthony Allen as a child.
Dressed in his martial arts attire, Allen is posed in front of his numerous trophies alongside his father, his sensei.
A bullish seventh-round draft pick from Georgia Tech, Allen learned his work ethic from his father. An Army veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm, Amos Allen is a community activist and former bail bondsman who runs a foundation that assists developmentally disturbed youth.
"My story is a little different, a little backwards from everybody else," Anthony Allen told 24×7. "I grew up with my father and I haven’t talked to my mother since she left us many years ago. My father is a little too old to do the bail bonds thing anymore. He’s on Social Security, but that doesn’t take care of everything because he has injuries from when he was in the Army.
"My family is in need right now. I have a two-year old daughter who means the world to me. I’m basically playing because I love the game, but I’ve also got to feed my family."
The Ravens drafted Allen because they were enamored of his potential and were curious how the 6-foot-1, 230-pounder would perform in a traditional offense after excelling at Georgia Tech in a modified wishbone attack.
Allen rushed for 1,934 yards and 12 touchdowns in two seasons at Georgia Tech after transferring from Louisville. He was named first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference last season, when he rushed for 1,225 yards.
"They got a steal in the seventh round, trust me," Amos Allen said in a telephone interview. "If he had went to any other school, he would have been drafted much higher. The Ravens are an outstanding fit. He’s going to show everybody that passed on him. I couldn’t be prouder. They’ve got a prize coming to them."
Allen grew up in Tampa, Fla., starring at running back and middle linebacker at Jesuit High School.
An all-state running back who rushed for 2,642 yards and 36 touchdowns as a junior and senior, he also shined in the 100-meter dash, long jump, high jump and triple jump.
"He’s been working since he was a kid," Amos Allen said. "He has a ridiculous work ethic that we’ve instilled in him. Nobody could keep up with him. We struggled and got him in the best schools for his education. He saw me and my wife working hard in the bail bond business.
"We went after the tough guys, bounty hunting. He watched me real closely. I taught him everything I knew about responsibility, about life. He’s a great kid."
And Allen’s a hungry runner who’s eager to dispel the notion that he’s merely a product of Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson’s run-first system.
Although Allen is big, fast and strong, having run the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds and bench pressed 225 pounds 24 times at the NFL scouting combine, he plummeted in the draft because of question marks about how his college success would translate to the pros.
In the triple-option, Allen lined up three yards behind the quarterback. NFL backs usually line up seven yards deep.
Reading blocks is different out of the I-formation. Plus, there’s less of a background in pass protection for Georgia Tech backs.
A year ago, Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer went to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the sixth round because of similar questions.
"I’m a downhill, power runner who likes to stay between the tackles, but I can make some things happen in the open field as well," said Allen, who caught 25 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns at Louisville. "I’m an athletic guy. Most people don’t remember that I played in the I-formation at Louisville. I played for Bobby Petrino and it was a pass-happy offense. Now, I’m going back to the things I’m used to doing.
"Anytime you can rush for over 1,000 yards, you can’t blame it on the system. It’s still a good amount of yards. The Ravens like the way I run the ball."
Most running backs drafted as late as Allen aren’t expected to make the team, but he could have a legitimate shot to back up featured back Ray Rice. The Ravens are expected to eventually cut veteran Willis McGahee because of McGahee’s $6 million base salary and his refusal to accept a pay cut.
Allen will face competition, but general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens’ scouts are excited about his upside. Allen rushed for 1,102 yards and 20 touchdowns at Louisville before deciding to transfer.
"Obviously at Georgia Tech, they run the triple option, and he’s either running the ball or getting hit on a fake, so he’s tough," director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said. "When you go back and look at his career and you watch the combine tape, he really showed the ability to catch the ball away from his frame. He’s a tough kid. He will block when he does those fakes, so he’s pretty versatile in that sense."
Allen already has a father’s faith behind him. Now, he has to make believers out of the Ravens’ coaching staff.
"Call me in a year and you’ll be telling me, ‘You were right about Anthony,’" Amos Allen said.
Twenty-five running backs were drafted before Allen. And he has compiled a list to fuel his motivation.
"I want to make all the other teams that passed on me sick to their stomach," Anthony Allen said. "I’m going in with more than a chip on my shoulder because of all of the people who doubted me. I’m going to Baltimore with something to prove."