By John McMullen, NFL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It took far longer than expected but Chip Kelly finally landed that 330-pound fish he set his eyes on five years ago.
Beau Allen first captured the attention of the current Eagles coach and his defensive line mentor, Jerry Azzinaro, in suburban Minneapolis at Minnetonka High School, when the duo recruited the big man to play nose tackle for the University of Oregon. At the time, Allen was rated as the top-ranked defensive tackle in the state, according to ESPN/Scouts Inc., and the fifth-best prospect in all of Minnesota, according to Rivals.
Allen, however, decided playing his college ball closer to home would be a better fit and chose to head east, hopping the border and ending up in Madison at the University of Wisconsin, where his grandfather starred as a member of the UW swim team back in the 1950s.
Allen's decision proved to be a prudent one as he developed into a two-year starter with the Badgers while toiling in a school-record 54 games.
A three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, Allen totaled 94 tackles, including 15 for loss, and eight sacks over his final two years, being honored as an All Big-Ten honorable mention selection on both occasions and catching the eye of NFL scouts.
In the end, Allen proved to be a draftable commodity, landing with Philadelphia, which took him with the 224th overall pick in the seventh round.
"It's nerve-racking as it is, but once you get down into the seventh round, you get a whole bunch of calls from different teams about free agency and stuff," Allen said. "You can never give up hope about being drafted. You never want to abandon that."
The City of Brotherly Love, of course, happens to be the current home of Kelly, who left Oregon for the challenge of the NFL, and Azzinaro.
And neither forgot the big kid from Minnetonka.
"(Azzinaro) introduced himself to me at (Wisconsin) pro day and reminded me that he recruited me," Allen said. "I don't really remember too much about that -- it was a long time ago. But we just talked a little bit at pro day. He's an easy guy to talk to."
Seventh-round picks generally aren't guaranteed anything in the NFL, but Allen landed in a place which desperately needs help at the nose tackle position.
Veteran Isaac Sopoaga started the 2013 campaign as the Eagles' starter at the position but quickly flamed out before being traded to New England during the season. He was replaced by former LSU standout Bennie Logan, who flashed at times in his rookie season but at just over 300 pounds is a bit undersized to anchor the middle of Philadelphia's 3-4 scheme.
That was never more obvious in the postseason when the New Orleans Saints -- the same Saints known for their explosive passing game and inability to win away from the Superdome -- rammed the ball down the Eagles' throats en route to a 26-24 wild-card win, the franchise's first-ever road playoff win.
Eagles first-year starting quarterback Nick Foles found rookie tight Zach Ertz slipping off the line unnoticed to put the Eagles on top, 24-23, late in that game, giving NOLA All-Pro signal caller Drew Brees and Co. 4 1/2 minutes to erase a narrative which has defined the team for years.
It wasn't Brees' arm that did in Philadelphia, though, it was his supporting cast in the backfield of Darren Sproles (now an Eagle), Mark Ingram and the little-used Khiry Robinson.
After a great kickoff return by Sproles, Saints coach Sean Payton kept it on the ground, running on eight of nine plays during the game-winning drive before veteran kicker Shayne Graham stepped up and booted an easy 32-yard field goal to end Philadelphia's season.
The inability to stop a team not exactly noted for its power running game was not lost on Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis, who both understood they needed a beefier body up front.
Enter Allen, who arrives in Philly 20 to 30 pounds heavier than Logan with much-needed experience as a starting nose guard in the 3-4 after Wisconsin changed fronts during his senior season. Previously, Allen played the zero- technique in a 4-3 alignment for three years.
"I think I'm a prototypical size for a nose tackle," Allen said. "I think I play the game hard, and I like to think I'm a smart football player. I can learn the scheme, and I think those are important aspects."
Allen agreed to a four-year deal with the Eagles late last month and was on the practice field a day later as Philadelphia kicked off its three-day rookie camp.
"I felt good about it," Allen said of his first taste of the NFL. "You have to learn the little nuances from taking reps. At the beginning of practice, I was lining up too close to the ball. By the end of practice, I learned you have to back off the ball a little bit."
Allen begins his sojourn with the Eagles like most rookies, behind both Logan and another second-year player, Damion Square, on the depth chart.
He does have one advantage over most first-year NFL players, though ... Allen already knows he's wanted.
"During the draft, I was keeping an eye on the Eagles' picks because I secretly wanted to come here. Crossing my fingers is kind of an anxious thing to do, but it all worked out."
06/03 13:49:08 ET