25-year-old Ricardo Allen is getting ready for the biggest night of his professional career.
Allen is a free safety for the Atlanta Falcons, having been drafted to the team in the 2014 Draft. Joining him at the game will be his wife, Grace.
Here’s what you need to know about Atlanta Falcons’ Ricardo Allen.
1. He Played Football at Mainland High School
Ricardo Allen was born in 1991 in Daytona Beach, Florida, and he attended Mainland High School.
According to Purdue Sports, while in high school, Allen was ranked as a three star prospect and number 48 cornerback nationally by ESPN. He was also ranked as number 57 player in Florida, and Rivals.com ranked him as the number four most-physical cornerback nationally.
Allen recorded 64 tackles and two interceptions. He also played soccer and track and field at Mainland High School.
2. He Played for Purdue University
After graduating from Mainland High School, Ricardo Allen committed to Purdue University in October 2009, according to Rivals.com.
During the 2010 season, Allen recorded 73 total tackles, including 56 solo tackles and 17 assisted tackles. He also finished with 129 interception return yards. In 2011, he recorded 79 total tackles, including 60 solo tackles and 19 assisted tackles, plus 37 interception return yards. In the 2012 season, he finished with 45 total tackles, including 42 solo tackles and three assisted tackles.
That year, Allen also broke the school’s record for interceptions for touchdowns: 38 yards in the final minutes of a match against Marshall University, according The Exponent.
Finally, during the 2013 season, Allen finished with 52 total tackles, including 41 solo tackles and 11 assisted tackles. He closed his time at Purdue University with 14 interceptions.
Allen earned All-Big Ten honors for each of his four years with Purdue team, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.
3. He Was Drafted to the Atlanta Falcons in 2014
Ricardo Allen was drafted to the Atlanta Falcons in 2014; he was picked in the fifth round and was the 147th pick overall.
When he was first drafted to the Falcons, a lot of fans didn’t think Allen would get very far, with the fansite The Falcoholic writing at the time, “While I’m excited to have Allen, it’s unlikely he’ll be a major contributor to the team. Either way, it’s a new Falcon and those are always fun.”
At first that prediction turned out to be correct, as Allen was cut from the team and assigned to the practice squad, where he mostly kept to himself.
“I didn’t say anything all year,” Allen told the Atlantic-Journal Constitution. “The majority of the time I kept my head down and walked past everybody. I always was quiet … because I felt that I was good enough to play and I didn’t feel like I was getting the opportunity at that time.”
But when Dan Quinn was hired as the Atlanta Falcons’ coach in 2015, he made Allen a free safety, and Allen went on to start 33 of the 35 games played over the next two seasons.
4. He Is Described as the Best Tackler on the Falcons
Secondary coach Marquand Manuel told ESPN that Ricardo Allen was the Falcons’ best tackler during the 2015 season.
“He was the best tackler on the team, and the thing about it was his mentality and his attitude,” Manuel said. “When you watched him, he worked at it every day. I tell him all the time, ‘Your job is to stay on top, no seams, no posts, and make sure you get the ball down and give us another down.’ And he took that challenge on which, for me, was awesome, because we really had a rookie at safety starting.”
Allen finished that season with 68 combined tackles. He continued this success during the 2016 season, when he racked up a total of 90 combined tackles.
Richard Smith, defensive coordinator for the Falcons, told ESPN that Allen has “accepted all of the coaching” and that “we’re really pleased with his progress and I think as he continues to play it’s only going to get better and better.”
5. He Is Married & Has a Son
Ricardo Allen is married to Grace Allen. The two of them met back in 2012, when they were both students at Purdue University. Grace was friends with Ricardo’s roommate, and he introduced them to one another.
As Grace describes it on her wedding website, the first time she and Ricardo met, she accidentally called him “Albert” for about two hours straight, and she felt so embarrassed she thought she had blown her chance with him. Luckily, though, she received a message on Twitter from Ricardo two days later, and they soon had their first date at a frozen yogurt place on the Purdue campus. Ricardo describes his experience of first meeting Grace by writing that he saw “the most beautiful thing in the world looking at me and I knew that there was a God and I knew that somehow, someway, I was going to get a hold of Gods gift to the world.”
Grace ended up graduating from Purdue with a Master of Public Health degree. Ricardo and Gracie were married on July 11th, 2015, and the couple now has a son together.
According to ESPN, Grace frequently criticizes Ricardo’s technique and helps him improve his game.
“She can tell me what I do wrong before I even notice,” he told ESPN. “One time I overran a play, and she was like, ‘The reason you overran that play is because you crossed your feet.’