Although Carolina Panthers starting quarterback Kyle Allen never thought it would take an unplanned, 31-hour drive to get his mind right, a few things clicked into place on the road between Charlotte, North Carolina, and his parents’ house Scottsdale, Arizona, in the fall of 2018.
As an undrafted free agent, Allen had signed with the Carolina Panthers’ practice squad, hoping that would eventually lead to something more. After being officially added to the team during Week 1 of the 2018 NFL season, Allen leased an apartment in Charlotte on Thursday and bought a used Ford Escape the next day, hoping he’d be working in Charlotte for a little while.
“I got fired the next Monday,” Allen said a few weeks ago from the Carolina Panthers’ facility in Charlotte. “I like to say ‘fired’ because it’s true.”
Allen gave up the apartment and loaded all of his belongings into the Escape. He was discouraged, but he also surprised himself with how he felt about the situation. He felt hopeful and confident that the work would pay off. But also, he felt self-aware, and believed himself capable of finding a solution.
“I was super patient and chill with it at that time,” Allen said. “The same day that I got cut, I flew to D.C. and I had a workout. I flew back the next day—that was Tuesday night. Then on Wednesday, we just packed up all our stuff and started driving home.”
“I didn't have enough money to ship my car,” Allen said.” I didn't want to waste money on buying a flight or anything, so just said, ‘Screw it, let's drive.’ So we drove as far as we could that day.” They got as far as Dallas, where they rented a hotel room that cost $60 a night.
Throughout the drive, Kyle and his girlfriend, Summer, reflected on his NFL situation, listening to podcasts and music to kill time. Allen had performed well in a preseason game for the Panthers, so a recent example of success was fresh in NFL evaluators’ minds.
“I knew I had some good tape out there and I didn't have tape out there for a long time,” Allen said. “So it was just a time where I needed to be patient and just let some things fall into place.”
At home, Allen worked out and watched football, or as much football as he could stand before feeling frustrated by his own competitiveness. He flew around the country most Mondays for workouts. One week, he found himself in Buffalo, when the Panthers rang his agent, Brian McLaughlin.
“The Panthers called him and were like, ‘Hey, we're thinking about bringing Kyle back.’ And he was like, ‘Well, he's in Buffalo for a workout, so you'd better sign him now.’ So they ended up signing me that day.”
Allen wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. He flew directly to Charlotte with only a day-bag and no plans on signing a lease.
“That was the only trip that I didn't bring a lot of clothes on, because it was my fifth workout and no one had signed me,” he said. “And so I was like, ‘Screw it. I'm not going to get signed, I'm not going to bring a bunch of clothes.’”
“So I ended up going to Carolina with like, two pairs of underwear.”
Weeks later, Allen was the starter.