The first football, in what Armando Allen hopes will be a sizable collection, was earned by the running back after a 46-yard sprint to the end zone on Oct. 7 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Allen's fourth-quarter score gave the Chicago Bears a 41-3 victory.
After reaching the end zone, Allen reflexively extended the ball to an official standing nearby. Immediately reconsidering, Allen turned, tucked it under his arm and headed to the sidelines.
"What was I thinking?" Allen said. "I guess I wanted to be a good sport. Then I came to my senses. My first NFL touchdown and I wasn't going to keep the ball? That's crazy."
Allen was reunited with his game-day treasure in the locker room.
"It went right into my bag, into my car and now sits in splendor in my home," Allen said. "I look at it every single day."
Allen's big play was his longest of the season. He has converted his seven carries into 58 yards, good for an 8.3 average. While Allen is happy, he's certainly far from satisfied.
RB Armando Allen
"I've been working a lot on special teams and I feel I can make a positive impact there," Allen said. "It's a privilege to be with such a great, hardworking group of guys. We love being around each other working with each other. There is real unity among the players and tremendous effort on every play. I'm learning so much watching the way they conduct themselves both on and off the field. But I'm not developed to the point I want to reach yet. I am trying to improve every day."
The 5-10, 190-pound Notre Dame grad came to the Bears in September of 2011 after being cut by the Bucs. An undrafted free agent, Allen was picked by Chicago as an addition to the team's practice squad. He was elevated to the 53-man roster on Dec. 19, carrying the ball 15 times for 48 yards in the season's last two games.
While at Notre Dame, Allen rushed 459 times for 2,144 yards and eight touchdowns.
"It was a great foundation for the NFL," Allen said. "We had excellent coaching in South Bend. There was a tradition of excellence there, just as there is here with the Bears. It's a culture I understand well. Playing at Notre Dame as an undergraduate made the transition to the NFL somewhat easier because I already understood pressure and high expectations."
Allen's role has expanded this season, due to the team cutting Kahlil Bell and placing Lorenzo Booker on injured reserve.
"I wish both those guys the best," Allen said. "Lorenzo and I were locked in a real battle for a roster spot for a time. That competition made both of us better. Having him go down was not the outcome I wanted to see."
In Allen's view, Chicago's positive momentum this season has increased the sense of unity within the team.
"It's been exciting. The communication on the field and in the locker room couldn't be better. Guys are eager to come to work. We feel we're making progress toward our ultimate goal which is, of course, the Super Bowl."
And what about those Irish, currently undefeated and ranked No. 4 in the AP polls?
"Couldn't be better," Allen said. "I keep in touch with the team. I haven't had time to go to a game yet but I follow them closely. I'm not surprised at the season they're having so far. It's where the team has been headed for a long time. They deserve their success. This is the year it all comes together and I couldn't be happier. My wish would be for the Bears to play in February and Notre Dame to be contending for the national championship."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.